30 September 2018

Cytoplasmic streaming



Video credit and details, from the Nikon Small World in Motion video competition, via Neatorama.

Lots of fascinating brief science videos at that second link*.   This cytoplasmic streaming fascinates me.  Can some reader explain what directs this motion?  Are there cilia on the tubule walls?

*if/when you visit, check out the "soy sauce evaporating."

"Sipping seawater through clothing"

Most of you have probably heard the story of the Indonesia teenager who survived on a fishing raft adrift in the ocean for 49 days.   This is the part that interested me:
The teenager only had a few days worth of supplies and survived by catching fish, burning wood from his hut to cook them, and sipping seawater through his clothes to minimize his salt intake.
I've heard of drinking water through cloth to remove particulates, but I can't see how it could possibly lower the salt content of seawater.   Other reports indicate that he did capture some rainwater, and maybe the flesh of any fish he could catch would be less hypertonic than seawater (?).  But he did survive 49 days adrift.

Interesting clam-digging tool



Are these "clam gun" pipes new? It's been decades since I was involved in any clam-digging, but all I remember from that era were conventional shovels and frustrating chases after clams that were deep and disappeared quickly.

"Embroidered American flag on sleeve"


Apparently totally ignorant of the U.S. Flag code, which states in article 8j:
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. 
This athletic jersey is offered for sale at the official Donald J. Trump store.

Stephen Hawking's memorial stone in Westminster Abbey


The formula represents the temperature of a black hole.  Image via.

"Tongue-tied" is not just a figure of speech

The New York Times reports on a boy who was thought to have a neurologic etiology for his speech problem, until a dentist noticed that the boy's tongue was fixed to the floor of his mouth by a tight frenulum.
“My husband and I were the only ones that could understand him.”  That all changed in April 2017, when Dr. Amy Luedemann-Lazar, a pediatric dentist, was performing unrelated procedures on Mason’s teeth. She noticed that his lingual frenulum, the band of tissue under his tongue, was shorter than is typical and was attached close to the tip of his tongue, keeping him from moving it freely.

Dr. Luedemann-Lazar ran out to the waiting room to ask the Motzes if she could untie Mason’s tongue using a laser.  After a quick Google search, the parents gave her permission to do so. Dr. Luedemann-Lazar completed the procedure in 10 seconds, she said.

After his surgery, Mason went home. He had not eaten all day. Ms. Motz heard him say: “I’m hungry. I’m thirsty. Can we watch a movie?”

28 September 2018

Trump clump #5

This "collusion map" is from a longread at NYMag.

Four months have passed since the last "Trump Clump," designed to cluster Trump-related links into a single post so that Trump supporters can easily skip over one post, and even more importantly to free up the rest of the blog from this often-depressing subject matter.  Time for one massive cleansing effort.

Video showing that Donald Trump doesn't know the words to "God Bless America."

Donald Trump does not know how to color a United States flag:
The photo was originally posted by Alex Alar, the health secretary, in his Twitter feed (scroll down to Aug 24). 

He cannot pronounce the word "anonymous" (video - two mistakes within 5 seconds)

In this tweet Donald Trump confessed to collusion.

A Russian asbestos-manufacturing company has put Donald Trump's face on their product: “He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos."  More hereAnd here.  And this: ​On Friday, the EPA will enter the final stage of approval for a new rule that would allow manufacturers to use asbestos in new products, pending an EPA review. If implemented, this significant new use rule (SNUR) would reintroduce the use of asbestos into new building materials, reversing regulations that restricted "new uses" of asbestos.


"President Donald Trump hired hundreds of undocumented Polish immigrants to demolish a New York City building in 1980 and paid them as little as $4 an hour without providing proper safety equipment to do the job, court documents show. The workers and their contractor, William Kaszycki of Kaszycki & Sons, sued Trump for unfair labor practices in 1983. After litigation dragged on for 15 years, Trump ultimately paid $1.375 million to settle the caseThe settlement was kept under seal for nearly two decades. But last week, in response to a motion filed by Time Inc. and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta A. Preska ordered the documents be made public."... During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump frequently boasted that, while he had been sued many times, he had “never settled.” He also campaigned extensively on calls to hire American workers while cracking down on illegal immigration. "

Trump indicated he believes that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election because that’s what Putin told him.

At the G7 meeting he tossed two Starburst candies on the table and told Merkel, "Don’t Say I Never Gave You Anything."

Re "chain migration": Melania Trump’s parents were sworn in as US citizens on Thursday, completing a legal path to citizenship that their son-in-law has suggested eliminating. 



Trump criticized the external appearance of the restaurant which refused service to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  But... "The president’s Mar-a-Lago resort has been faulted with 51 health-code violations since 2013. Health inspectors have also found an additional 30 at Mar-a-Lago’s beach club. Trump’s Doral golf club outside Miami has fared even worse: Between its main kitchen, banquet hall, café, patio grill, and bungalows, inspectors have found 524 health-code violations since 2013, including a number that resulted in fines. Among inspectors’ findings were multiple spottings of live and dead cockroaches (they noted 20-25 live ones visibly present in the main kitchen during one 2015 visit), “slimy/mold-like build-up” in coolers and freezers, and holes in kitchen walls.

When Trump visited England, the Queen intentionally trolled him by wearing a brooch that had been given to her by the Obamas.


Video of the "Trump Baby" blimp flown at various venues in England and Europe.

"...don't forget both my parents were born in EU sectors okay? I mean my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany. And -- you know I love those countries." Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump was indeed born in Scotland in 1912. But Frederick Trump Sr. was born in the Bronx in 1905. And this isn't the first time Trump has made such a claim. On July 1st in an interview with Fox News' Maria Bartiromo, he said: "My parents were born in the European Union."  What the hell is happening here? Why is Trump claiming his father was born in Germany? Shouldn't a man who spent years questioning the birthplace of Barack Obama know where his own damn father was born?"


Parallel quotes from George Orwell's 1984 and from Donald Trump.

An evangelical compares Bill Clinton to Donald Trump.


Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the 11 members of the commission formed by President Trump to investigate supposed voter fraud, issued a scathing rebuke of the disbanded panel on Friday, accusing Vice Chair Kris Kobach and the White House of making false statements and saying that he had concluded that the panel had been set up to try to validate the president’s baseless claims about fraudulent votes in the 2016 election.

This is an actual quote (video here):  ??what is he saying??  (trying to say)

The spectacular dunes system picked by Donald Trump for his golf resort in Aberdeenshire has been “partially destroyed” as a result of the course’s construction, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed... Scottish Natural Heritage, which has been under pressure for years to speak out on the issue, now acknowledges that serious damage has been done to the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) at Foveran Links... “It appears that the desires of one high-profile overseas developer, who refused to compromise one inch, have been allowed to override the legal protection of this important site. And we fear this sets a precedent that will undermine the whole protected-sites network in Scotland..."

"More than two-thirds of every factual claim made by President Trump at two of his rallies turns out to be false, misleading or unsupported by evidence. In July, The Fact Checker examined every factual claim made by the president at a rally in Montana. He returned to Montana on Sept. 6, and we decided once again to put every statement of material fact to the truth test to see whether the July rally was an outlier.  In July, 76 percent of his 98 statements were false, misleading or unsupported by the evidence. Last week the tally, out of 88 statements, was 70 percent. The average percentage for the two rallies was 74 percent."


Donald Trump argued with Vietnam War vets over Agent Orange because he confused it with the napalm depicted in Apocalypse Now.

A "rap sheet" on the sheriffs who supported Trump.


"At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all. “We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him. After Trump left the meeting, Woodward recounts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”"

However, "criticizing Trump in a book just isn't fair.  It's like criticizing the Amish on television."


FactCheck.org demolishes Trump's false claims about wind turbines as alternative energy sources.

Retaining support from his base:

On 9/11/2001 - the day the planes hit the Twin Towers - Donald Trump was interviewed live on a radio program:
A little more than a minute later, Marcus asked whether Trump’s 40 Wall Street building had suffered any damage. Before getting into his response about his Financial District property, the businessman had something he wanted on the record.

40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second tallest,” Trump said in the WWOR interview. “And now it’s the tallest.”
"Donald Trump is facing widespread social media backlash after he was pictured greeting supporters with a triumphant double fist pump as he arrived to a 9/11 memorial service on Tuesday, the 17th anniversary of the terror attacks." (photo at the link)



Here's another Randy Rainbow parody called "If You Ever Got Impeached" to the tune of the Wizard of Oz's "If I Only Had a Brain."

During a press conference Wednesday, President Donald Trump said China respects him because of his "very, very large brain." 


Comments are closed for this post; I prefer to spend my time cleaning out the garage rather than curating the blog.   But in all fairness I should let him speak on his own behalf (via):
"I have the best words."
"I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth."
"No one reads the Bible more than me."
"Nobody knows more about debt. I'm like the king. I love debt."
"I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world."
"Nobody knows banking better than I do"
"I understand money better than anybody."
"Nobody knows politicians better than Donald Trump."
"Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump."
"There's nobody bigger or better at the military than I am."
"I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me."
"Because nobody knows the system better than me."
“I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.”
"I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I tell you that.”
“I will be America’s greatest defender and most loyal champion.”
“I am the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
“I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you’ve ever seen, the least.”
" I have the best [golf] courses in the world"
“No one has more respect for women than me.”
“I have the best temperament or certainly one of the best temperaments of anybody that’s ever run for the office of president. Ever.”
“I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to the Secret Service.”
“No one has done more for people with disabilities than me.”
“Nobody has better toys than I do.”
“I know more about foreign policy than anybody running.”
“I’m the most successful person ever to run for the presidency, by far. Nobody’s ever been more successful than me.”
“I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you’ve ever seen, the least.”
And I would totally agree with his 9 August 2014 tweet, in which he said "We need a President who isn't a laughing stock to the entire World." The United Nations general assembly would also agree.

Now to get on with my life for another 3-4 months.

26 September 2018

Marble runs


Reposted from 2016 to add this awesome marble run choreographed to music:


With a hat tip to Miss C at Neatorama.

Reposted from January to add this even better one:



 There is an explanation of some of the mechanics at Neatorama.

Immigrant recipes "make America great"


Found at our local library.  Published this year - that subtitle is not a coincidence.

(red highlight added)

School doesn't allow grades of zero

Mrs. Tirado has been a teacher for more than 17 years. The 52-year-old began working at West Gate K-8 School this year as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.

She says she gave her students two weeks to complete an explorer’s notebook project but says some of them didn’t turn it in.

That’s when she says she learned about a no-zero grading policy, written in red in the school’s handbook, stating, “NO ZERO’S – LOWEST POSSIBLE GRADE IS 50%.”

Tirado says this sends the wrong message...
Her Sept. 14 termination letter doesn’t cite a specific reason, only stating she was contracted as a teacher on a probation period, and that she can be dismissed without cause.
The rest of the story is at the local ABC News affiliate.  The unnecessary apostrophe in the policy isn't discussed.

Dear young people: "Don't vote"

23 September 2018

Post-mastectomy tattoos


In 2013 I blogged about "Medical nipple tattoos," and two years ago featured an elaborate floral breast tattoo ("Because there's no nipple, I can blast it everywhere all over Facebook and Instagram, and they can't censor it, which I think is really funny," Alison says.)

This week The Guardian explored the subject in a little more depth, featuring photos and brief self-stories by seven women who have chosen breast tattoos after surgery.   For each of them the acquisition of the tattoo was an empowering act that enhanced their self-esteem, allowing them to become more comfortable with and more in control of their body transformation.
The biggest revelation was that I had been avoiding looking at myself in the mirror. I had been averting my eyes from my chest and scar, without realising it. A weight was lifted, and suddenly I had this beautiful piece of art. 
More at the link, including some contact information for artists.

Postulating Alzheimer's as an infectious disease

It's not totally fanciful.  Here are some excerpts from an NPR article:
Norins is quick to cite sources and studies supporting his claim, among them a 2010 study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery showing that neurosurgeons die from Alzheimer's at a nearly 2 1/2 times higher rate than the general population.

Another study from that same year, published in The Journal of the American Geriatric Society, found that people whose spouses have dementia are at a 1.6 times greater risk for the condition themselves.

Contagion does come to mind. And Norins isn't alone in his thinking. In 2016, 32 researchers from universities around the world signed an editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease calling for "further research on the role of infectious agents in [Alzheimer's] causation." Based on much of the same evidence Norins encountered, the authors concluded that clinical trials with antimicrobial drugs in Alzheimer's are now justified...

Tanzi believes that in many cases of Alzheimer's, microbes are probably the initial seed that sets off a toxic tumble of molecular dominoes. Early in the disease amyloid protein builds up to fight infection, yet too much of the protein begins to impair function of neurons in the brain. The excess amyloid then causes another protein, called tau, to form tangles, which further harm brain cells.

But as Tanzi explains, the ultimate neurological insult in Alzheimer's is the body's reaction to this neurotoxic mess. All the excess protein revs up the immune system, causing inflammation — and it's this inflammation that does the most damage to the Alzheimer's-afflicted brain...

Remember when we thought ulcers were caused by stress?" Ulcers, we now know, are caused by a germ.

Best political advertisement ever


The first 40 seconds are pretty conventional.  But the last 20 seconds are brutal.  Cold.  Effective.  Awesome.

More re Paul Gosar.  FWIW, the 538 website projects a 99% chance that he will win reelection (with 64% of the vote).  The advertisement is recent - we'll see if the odds change.

"Pocket lint" screwed up my iPhone


Wherein an English major confronts a problem with modern technology and shares the solution with his readers.

I selected the iPhone SE for its smaller and more convenient size and (relative) affordability.   I was totally pleased with it until the phone began developing battery problems, about the same time in 2017 that Apple announced the implementation of a discounted battery replacement program that included the SE.

What I noticed was that my phone occasionally had problems charging.  Sometimes when I plugged in the lightning-to-USB cable I would return to find the battery charge level unchanged (or lower).  I switched from charging it off the iMac USB port to charging it off a wall outlet via an adapter.  Sometimes the phone charged, sometimes it didn't.

So in I went to the Apple store earlier this summer, where the a staff member ran full diagnostics on the battery.  "Nothing wrong with your battery."  All of the diagnostics accessible via the Settings>Battery>Battery Health menu (maximum capacity, peak performance capability) were within normal limits - as were all of the additional parameters that the technician was able to measure with their in-house proprietary program.

I thought perhaps my charging cable was defective, so I bought another one.  Sometimes when I charged the phone in an upright position, with its weight on the connector the charging "took," which made the cable-port connection more suspicious.  Also, sometimes when I plugged it in, the phone would blink "on" with the icon, then go quiet, then blink "on" again in a repeating cycle.  This would stop if I wiggled the cable just right.

So back I went this week, taking the charging cable with me.  The young lady who helped me solved the problem in five minutes.  First she checked the metrics, which were all normal.  Then when I suggested maybe the port needed to be replaced, she said looked at my cable-phone connection and announced "it's much easier than that."  She pointed out that the plastic "collar" at the end of the cable was not flush with the body of the phone when it was plugged in.

That was the key observation.  I had noticed some "play" in that connection and had wondered if the port was damaged.  The solution was way simpler than that.  She reached in her pocket, pulled out what looked like an otoscope, and peered into the port.  "It's pocket lint.  We'll fix it right here."  She then took out a short handled, soft-bristled brush and began poking away at the port, stopping at intervals to blow dust off the bristles.

The problem of course was that lint from my pants pocket had slowly accumulated in the port.  Each time I plugged the lightning-to-USB cable into the phone, I was gradually packing that lint into the base of the port, eventually disrupting the electrical connection.  Two minutes of vigorous brushing solved the problem: the cable connected with click, totally flush with the phone. 

I decided to write this up for the blog because I suspect some readers may encounter a similar situation (and this probably goes cross-platform to phones other than iPhones.)  To prepare the post I searched for "pocket lint" plus iPhone and immediately found an article that describes the problem and the solution.
On my iPhone 5, I noticed it “chirped” that it was plugged in while already plugged in. After narrowing down the possible maneuver to cause this to happen, I noticed that my Lightning cable had a bit of play in it, but only going to the right. If pushed right, it would stop charging, pushed back it would resume charging...

In the past with my iPods and iPhones, there was a bit of lint build up, but it often fell out. It seems with the Lightning Connector, plugging a cable in smashes the lint even deeper in the phone and I had some nasty buildup. I’ve used compressed air before, but it didn’t seem to really remove much. I used an unbent small paperclip to carefully scrape the inside of the port, avoiding the actual pins (do this at your own risk), and was amazed the amount of things that I was able to pull out.
I had asked the Apple tech about using compressed air at home, as I do with the keyboard, but she suggested a brush tends to work better.  My search also revealed that "dust plugs" are available.

In retrospect, the reason I didn't find the solution the many times I searched for "battery problems" is that this wasn't a battery problem.  So I thought I'd post the problem and solution here today for the benefit of those readers who may also be non-techy English majors.

20 September 2018

"Are You Going With Me?" (Pat Metheny Group)



Filmed at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, but the audio is obviously from a studio recording.  This video has just the music.

"At the time of the song's recording, Latin American and especially Brazilian music had begun to influence jazz in the United States, and when Brazilian musicians such as Nana Vasconcelos came to play with American artists, this influence, in the case of the Pat Metheny Group, became overt. The "Brazilian" quality of "Are You Going With Me?" is frequently noted; and it has been considered by some to be "obviously samba-based"."

Interesting story about Pat Metheny:  "While playing at a club in Kansas City, he was approached by Bill Lee, a dean at the University of Miami, and offered a scholarship. After less than a week at college, Metheny realized that playing guitar all day during his teens had left him unprepared for classes. He admitted this to Lee, who offered him a job to teach instead, as the school had recently introduced electric guitar as a course of study."

He is apparently the only artist ever to win Grammy Awards in ten different categories.

A more recent performance, with the Metropole Orkest (Netherlands jazz/pop orchestra):


19 September 2018

A "rat king", three "squirrel kings" -- and three bucks

"Rat kings are cryptozoological phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, and excrement. The animals consequently grow together while joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported...

Most researchers presume the creatures are legendary and that all supposed physical evidence is hoaxed, such as mummified groups of dead rats with their tails tied together. Reports of living specimens remain unsubstantiated

Specimens of purported rat kings are kept in some museums. The museum Mauritianum in Altenburg (Thuringia) shows the largest well-known mummified "rat king", which was found in 1828 in a miller's fireplace at Buchheim [above]. It consists of 32 rats. Alcohol-preserved rat kings are shown in museums in Hamburg, Hamelin, Göttingen, and Stuttgart. A rat king found in 1930 in New Zealand, displayed in the Otago Museum in Dunedin, was composed of immature Rattus rattus whose tails were entangled by horse hair.

The term rat king has often led to the misconception of a king of rats... The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, adapts a tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann that features a seven-headed Mouse King as the villain..."
Image and text from Wikipedia. Credit to Neatorama.

Addendum #1:  Reposted to add this example of a "squirrel king" -
The Animal Clinic of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, got a surprise this week when a city worker brought in six squirrels fused together by their tails...


This particular group of six were nesting near a pine tree and sap fused their tails together. A city of Regina worker found the young squirrels and brought them to the clinic. The animals were sedated and the veterinarian team worked to untangle the mess of tails. Their tails were then shaved of the matted fur and they were given antibiotics to prevent infection.  (Via Nothing to do with Arbroath)

Addendum #2:  Reposted in order to add this related interesting phenomenon found by my wife at the Buck Manager website:

[T]hese three white-tailed bucks were found locked during the rut. The bucks were located on a ranch in east-central Texas and, from the information that I received, one of the bucks was still alive when the trio was found. Apparently, the antlers were cut from the dead deer and one very tired buck was lucky enough to run back off into the woods.
There are lots of comments at the site, some opining that the event was faked and arguing the method of death, and one who reported seeing a buck attack a pair that was already locked.   My wife found another example at the same website:

 "...there is nothing worse than finding a dead buck that you did not shoot, but how would you feel if you found not one, but three dead bucks on your property? Okay, it gets worse. What if those three bucks totaled 450 inches of antler? That is exactly what a hunter in the mid-West found on his Ohio farm..."
"They had the bank of this creek all tore up."
Addendum #3: And reader Lisa knew of a ancient example of the phenomenon involving Ice Age mammoths.

Addendum #4:  Reposted from 2013 to add this image found by an anonymous reader -


- of a squirrel king in Nebraska, with the victims, as in the example cited above, fused at their tails by pine tree sap.

Addendum #5:  Reposted yet again to add this "squirrel king" found locally here in central Wisconsin:

Their tails had become entwined with "long-stemmed grasses and strips of plastic their mother used as nest material," the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center wrote on Facebook... "It was impossible to tell whose tail was whose, and we were increasingly concerned because all of them had suffered from varying degrees of tissue damage to their tails caused by circulatory impairment," the post read.

"Acne positivity movement"

[Kali] Kushner, 23, from Cincinnati, Ohio, began documenting her struggle with acne on the Instagram account @myfacestory – her experience with the drug Accutane, dermarolling, makeup, scarring, hyperpigmentation, alongside all the ways people have responded to her acne, from her husband, who has been steadfastly supportive, to the traffic police officer who assumed she was a junkie. To her surprise, people began following. Today, with more than 50,000 followers, she makes up part of the growing acne positivity movement.

After years of oppressive aesthetic perfection, acne positivity is a drive for people to be more open about their skin problems, from the occasional spot to full-blown cystic acne. It joins recent moves to celebrate the many and varied appearances of our skin – from vitiligo to freckles and stretch marks – but also seeks to educate those who still believe that acne is a problem for the unwashed and unhealthy...

He tells of a US study in which participants were shown a selection of photographs of high-school students with skin problems, as well as photographs of the same students with their acne airbrushed out, and asked for their impressions. The results, Shergill says, showed that “as soon as you have any disfigurement on your face, you get viewed as an introverted nerd."

While many regard acne as a teenage affliction, it can evolve into adulthood. An estimated 25% of all women over 30 still have the condition.
The story continues at The Guardian.

Every positive integer can be written as a sum of three palindromes


An engine here allows you to test the validity of the statement.  Via Boing Boing.

Pontevedra, Spain, has banned automobiles


Not just on a boulevard or two, but for all of the central city.
Miguel Anxo Fernández Lores has been mayor of the Galician city since 1999. His philosophy is simple: owning a car doesn’t give you the right to occupy the public space.

“How can it be that the elderly or children aren’t able to use the street because of cars?” asks César Mosquera, the city’s head of infrastructures. “How can it be that private property – the car – occupies the public space?”

Lores became mayor after 12 years in opposition, and within a month had pedestrianised all 300,000 sq m of the medieval centre, paving the streets with granite flagstones. “The historical centre was dead,” he says. “There were a lot of drugs, it was full of cars – it was a marginal zone. It was a city in decline, polluted, and there were a lot of traffic accidents. It was stagnant. Most people who had a chance to leave did so. At first we thought of improving traffic conditions but couldn’t come up with a workable plan. Instead we decided to take back the public space for the residents and to do this we decided to get rid of cars.”

They stopped cars crossing the city and got rid of street parking, as people looking for a place to park is what causes the most congestion. They closed all surface car parks in the city centre and opened underground ones and others on the periphery, with 1,686 free places. They got rid of traffic lights in favour of roundabouts, extended the car-free zone from the old city to the 18th-century area, and used traffic calming in the outer zones to bring the speed limit down to 30km/h.
Details at The Guardian.

'Tis the season for Black Swallowtail caterpillars


The rather unimpressive greenery around our mailbox is a confluent group of rue (Ruta graveolens).  Most homeowners opt for mailbox plantings that are a bit more colorful and showy.  We like the rue because this shrubby perennial tolerates poor soil in hot dry conditions (next to an asphalt road and concrete driveway) and because it is a primary food plant for the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).

Earlier in the season the plants are covered with tiny yellow blossoms...


... which, while unspectacular to the human eye, are complex clusters of five-petaled flowers that are very attractive to bees.  We seldom see Black Swallowtail butterflies on the rue (they tend to nectar on larger flowers elsewhere in the garden), but we know females have visited the rue and oviposited there because in September the caterpillars start appearing on the upper outer branches.

What we see are the late-stage instars, mature caterpillars that are starting to look for a place to form a chrysalis.  They seem to know that the greenery of the rue will die back in the winter, leaving only the woody central stems, and they need a secure place for the chrysalis if they are to live through a Wisconsin winter.


When we find the caterpillars, we bring them to our screen porch, which offers them protection from predatory wasps, ants, spiders, etc., and we give them some clippings of the rue for a final snack, and more importantly a variety of sticks they can use for pupation.  In the above photo the two caterpillars have chosen a stick from a birch tree, and the one on the right has already formed its "J", with a silk harness going from the stick around behind its "shoulders."


Several days later (the larger cat having moved on), the caterpillar is now fully pupated, attached at the bottom with some glued adhesive [higher on the stick is a remnant from a prior year's successful sequence], and supported by that amazing little silk sling.

We have eight of these now on the screen porch.  The terrarium will be placed where the chrysalises can be snowed on (I think they might need some moisture in the winter to avoid desiccation), and they will live through sub-zero temperatures, will freeze and thaw (perhaps several times), and in the spring...


... magic.

I've seen metamorphosis countless times, and it never fails to fascinate me.  And the beauty of these creatures up close in just incredible.  Here's a view of the underside of the wings -


And then follows the to-me-incredible event when a creature that in its entire previous life crawled around in a small plant, now lets go of a stick and "knows" how to fly.  And eyes that have never before focused more than millimeters away can now locate food and mates at dozens of meters.

You don't have to be a child to retain a sense of wonder with regard to the natural world.

When you purchase a stock photo but forget to write your own caption


Credit (??) to the StarTribune.

15 September 2018

Divertimento #155


Yet another gif-fest (plus some short videos that seem better linked here rather than in separate posts)

Demonstration of a drone being used to extinguish a fire in a high-rise building.

Surprisingly, nobody was killed in this accident

Clever book cover

Creating art with an ink-soaked string 

A girl riding a horse

Lightness and darkness are relative terms

A "draw hitch knot" is a quick-release knot

How to serve a Korean dinner with a lot of side dishes

Dinner served with shovels

California fire tornado 

Woman dries underpants during an airplane flight 

A Congreve clock uses a ball rolling on a zig-zag track rather than a pendulum

Playing around with a skid-steer loader 

Nutation illustrated

"Trashy" people filmed in reverse at an Ohio wildlife preserve.

Taxi driver has had it up to here with a drunk who litters

Hi-rising dough

Building a Leonardo daVinci bridge (example)


Animals

Butterflies puddling on a turtle 

Newfoundland dogs are natural water rescuers

Deer freed from a fence 

Two fish in an aquarium have a territorial dispute 

Elephants in Kenya eating birds' nests with chicks and eggs

Wading bird hitches a ride

Turtles on a log

Two-headed turtle 

Aerial view of a dog herding sheep 

Four-legged hay spreader 

Happy cow 

Owl intimidates woodpecker

Snow leopard mom teaching her cub


Impressive

Cat escapes from a well by climbing a vertical wall

How to fillet an avocado

Power-washing a rug

Launching a remote-controlled glider

Break dancing (perhaps it has another name?)

Leigh Holland-Keen lifts Scotland’s legendary Dinnie Stones (733 pounds)

Surfer riding a massive wave

Splitting rock (smart to have the pegs tied together)

Carving a watermelon

Saving a sea turtle 

Animatronic triceratops

Lake Superior "yooperlites"

Lavender kunzite


Sports

Nope.  Nope.  Nope.

When the ground is lava

Just to clarify, this athlete is not wearing a bra (it's a tracker)

When your older sister is a better athlete

Incredible ping-pong shot 

Punt returned for a touchdown in one second


Fails

Driving a car on a carpeted stage

Jumping off a dock in the rain 

Ballerina top goes bye-bye 

Volvo collision prevention system doesn't 

Man tries to rob a store

Watch me dive into the pool


Cheerful
Dad surprises his daughter 

Little girl tries a claw machine 

Wait for me !

He finally made it !  Whew !

Toddler putting on his leg 

Elderly man still enjoys jazz


Humor 

Fun (?) in a tire swing

When your older sister is a better athlete


All of the embedded images come from a remarkable gallery of 24 award-winning photos in the 2017 Nikon Small World competition.  Please visit the link to learn what the depicted subjects are, and to enjoy the rest of the gallery.

14 September 2018

Fjaðrárgljúfur

Fjaðrárgljúfur (pronounced [ˈfjaːðraurˌkljuːvʏr̥]) is a canyon in south east Iceland which is up to 100 m deep and about 2 kilometers long, with the Fjaðrá river flowing through it. The canyon has steep walls and winding water. Its origins dates back to the cold periods of the Ice Age, about two million years ago. It is located near the Ring Road, not far from the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. The canyon was created by progressive erosion by flowing water from glaciers through the rocks and palagonite over millennia.
Via the EarthPorn subreddit.  I quite enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek clarification: "For those confused, it's pronounced 'flglhlhaldhslflr.'"

Found under the floorboards of an old house


A vintage eggshell cutter for serving soft-boiled eggs.  Not to be confused with one of these.

Image cropped and improved from the original posted at the WhatIsThisThing subreddit.

Alma Deutscher - musical prodigy (updated)


As reported in The Telegraph:
Deutscher's father said she could name the notes on a piano by the age of two. She was given her first violin for her third birthday, and was playing Handel sonatas within a year.

Earlier this year, Deutscher composed a short opera called The Sweeper of Dreams, which narrowly missed out on making the final of a contest run by the English National Opera to unearth young, talented classical musicians.
Reposted from 2012 (the embed above shows her performing at age 6) to add this incredible video:



Scott Pelley selects four notes, and the now-12-year-old young lady takes less than a minute to compose and play a piano sonata based on those notes.

Via Neatorama.  Her Wikipedia page.

Bridezilla is angry...


The social media entry embedded above will serve as an appropriate introduction for anyone not familiar with the portmanteau term "bridezilla."  And don't get her started on the registry...

12 September 2018

Honeycomb

via

The story of a Confederate flag and a heart attack


I liked Ike


Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first U.S. president I knew of (I was an infant during the Truman administration), and I liked him.  He was Pennsylvania Dutch, like my father, and seemed to my youthful mind to be a proper President.  Growing up in a household with one parent a Republican and the other a Democrat, I wound up with zero interest in politics per se until my collegiate years, when the events of the late 60s commanded my attention.

As a blogger, I've posted a smattering of information about him - most remarkably the fact that during his tenure as a conservative Republican, the top marginal income tax rate was 91%, and most memorably his televised "farewell warning" to the nation.

I learned more about him yesterday [2012] from an article in The New Republic, which mused about why today's Republicans seldom mention him:
Conservatives had expected that Eisenhower, as the first Republican president since 1932, would repeal the New Deal; instead he augmented and expanded programs like Social Security, thereby giving them bipartisan legitimacy as well as added effectiveness. Conservatives had expected that the president would support Senator Joseph McCarthy’s crusade to tar all liberals as pro-Communist; instead he denied McCarthy the authority to subpoena federal witnesses and receive classified documents, thereby precipitating the red-baiter’s overreach and fall.

Eisenhower governed as a moderate Republican. While he failed to take bold action against Southern segregation as Democratic liberals and Republican progressives urged him to do, he helped to cool the overheated partisan rhetoric of the preceding two decades and built a middle-of-the-road consensus that marginalized extremists of left and right. He was well aware that his moderation earned him the implacable enmity of GOP conservatives. As he put it, “There is a certain reactionary fringe of the Republican Party that hates and despises everything for which I stand.” But this did not greatly bother him, since he also believed that “their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

The conservative movement’s tablet-keepers have long memories, so it’s unsurprising that Ike has remained a devil figure for the right. What may seem more surprising is that at a moment when Republicans are posing as stalwart defenders of a balanced federal budget, they dismiss the example of the most fiscally conservative president of the past eighty years. Eisenhower balanced the budget three times in his eight years in office, a feat that neither Ronald Reagan nor George W. Bush came close to achieving. Ike cut federal civilian employment by 274,000 and reduced the ratio of the national debt to GNP, though not the absolute level of debt. The economy bloomed under his watch, with high growth, low inflation, and low unemployment.

 But Eisenhower’s economic success matters little to today’s Republicans given his deviations from conservative orthodoxy. Ike disdained partisanship, praised compromise and cooperation, and pitched his appeals to independent voters. He approved anti-recessionary stimulus spending, extended unemployment compensation, and raised the minimum wage. He pioneered federal aid to education and created the largest public-works program in history in the form of the interstate highway system. He levied gasoline taxes to pay for the highway construction, and believed that cutting income taxes when the federal government was running a deficit would be an act of gross fiscal irresponsibility. The Republican presidential candidates who are beating the drum to bomb Iran are in stark contrast with Eisenhower’s refusal to intervene in Vietnam. And conservative hawks find something vaguely pinko about Ike’s drive to restrain the pace of the arms race and his famous warning about the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”

 In fairness to today’s Republicans, Eisenhower’s values—prudence, pragmatism, reasonableness, frugality, and respect for the past—find little resonance on either side of our present partisan divide, or in American culture as a whole.
Some day I should read a full biography of him; I'm open to suggestions as to which one to choose.

There's more at The New Republic, via The Dish.

Reposted from 2012 to add some new information.

In 2016 I posted Eisenhower, LeMay, Nimitz: "Hiroshima bombing unnecessary." Some interesting information there, especially in several comments by readers in the discussion thread.

But what prompted my repost this morning is an article in the April issue of The Atlantic about Eisenhower's views on civil rights.  Herewith some excerpts.
At a White House stag dinner in February 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower shocked the new chief justice of the United States. Earl Warren was Eisenhower’s first appointment to the Supreme Court and had been sworn in just four months earlier. Only two months into his tenure, Warren had presided over oral arguments in the blockbuster school-segregation case Brown v. Board of Education. As of the dinner, the case was still under advisement. Yet Eisenhower seated Warren near one of the attorneys who had argued the case for the southern states, John W. Davis, and went out of his way to praise Davis as a great man. That alone would have made for an awkward evening. What happened next made it fateful. Over coffee, Eisenhower took Warren by the arm and asked him to consider the perspective of white parents in the Deep South. “These are not bad people,” the president said. “All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big black bucks.”

It was an appalling moment. Here was the president leaning on the chief justice about a pending case while using the racist terms of an overseer. Several of Eisenhower’s admirers have attempted to downplay the encounter, but reports confirm that he used racially charged language in private. The incident left such an impression that Warren recounted it in his memoirs some 20 years later. Ever decorous, he sanitized the slur from “black bucks” to “overgrown Negroes,” but in his biography, Super Chief, Bernard Schwartz, one of Warren’s confidants, recorded the actual phrase in all its rotten vinegar. Warren had been a prosecutor and a governor, and was no choirboy; he had heard bigoted language before. Yet as the chief justice, he embodied the impartiality of the entire federal judiciary. He was a man who believed in fairness and dignity. The president’s words had shaken him...

[after the Brown decision] Eisenhower pointedly refused to endorse it. Instead he delivered this bafflingly terse answer to a reporter’s question: “The Supreme Court has spoken, and I am sworn to uphold the constitutional process in the country. And I will obey.” There endeth the statement. Eisenhower offered no comment in support of racial equality, no expression of solidarity with African Americans, and no sign of agreement with the Court’s opinion...

...Eisenhower freely praised the Court’s decisions in other contexts, including, as a candidate, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952), which invalidated President Harry Truman’s attempt to seize control of the steel mills during the Korean War. And Eisenhower abandoned restraint and threw himself into causes that seemed closer to his heart than civil rights, such as the fight for a balanced budget. During violent melees in protest of Brown, Eisenhower temporized, speaking in private of the need to “understand the southerners as well as the Negroes,” and denouncing “extremists on both sides”—a familiar equivalence that elevated racist mobs to the status of civil-rights marchers...

Sadly, if every president forfeits all civil-rights recognition by using racist language in the ugly spirit of his age, then Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson must go as well. Eisenhower acted to desegregate the armed forces and took strong steps to desegregate Washington, D.C. After procrastinating, he decisively enforced Brown by sending federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to face down Governor Orval Faubus. The president lent his support, with mixed success, to the effort to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1957...

Eisenhower believed in incremental change, driven by social progress rather than law. He demanded intolerable levels of patience from African Americans, who had already waited centuries for equality. Warren, by contrast, recognized that America’s formative pathology—its racism—was a terminal cancer that must be dealt with urgently. He engineered the boldest stroke against segregation since Reconstruction.

Facial recognition technology reconsidered

Its capabilities go way past catching terrorists.
Dystopia starts with 23.6 inches of toilet paper. That’s how much the dispensers at the entrance of the public restrooms at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven dole out in a program involving facial-recognition scanners—part of the president’s “Toilet Revolution,” which seeks to modernize public toilets. Want more? Forget it. If you go back to the scanner before nine minutes are up, it will recognize you and issue this terse refusal: “Please try again later.”

China is rife with face-scanning technology... When a camera mounted above one of 50 of the city’s busiest intersections detects a jaywalker, it snaps several photos and records a video of the violation. The photos appear on an overhead screen so the offender can see that he or she has been busted, then are cross-checked with the images in a regional police database. Within 20 minutes, snippets of the perp’s ID number and home address are displayed on the crosswalk screen... The system seems to be working: Since last May, the number of jaywalking violations at one of Jinan’s major intersections has plummeted from 200 a day to 20...

... in Beijing, customers stand in front of a screen, have their face scanned, and receive menu suggestions based on their age, sex, and facial expression...

The technology’s veneer of convenience conceals a dark truth: Quietly and very rapidly, facial recognition has enabled China to become the world’s most advanced surveillance state. A hugely ambitious new government program called the “social credit system” aims to compile unprecedented data sets, including everything from bank-account numbers to court records to internet-search histories, for all Chinese citizens. Based on this information, each person could be assigned a numerical score, to which points might be added for good behavior like winning a community award, and deducted for bad actions like failure to pay a traffic fine. The goal of the program, as stated in government documents, is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”..

People in China don’t know 99.99 percent of what’s going on in terms of state surveillance,” she says. “Most people think they can say what they want and live freely without being monitored, but that’s largely an illusion.”
More at The Atlantic.
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