17 January 2019

Harpy eagle

Photo via.

Belly button bacterial biodiversity

From 60 belly buttons, the team found 2,368 bacterial species...

Some belly buttons harbored as few as 29 species and some as many as 107, although most had around 67. Ninety-two percent of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10 percent of subjects—in fact, most of the time, they appeared in only a single subject.

One science writer, for instance, apparently harbored a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been.

Another, more fragrant individual, who hadn't washed in several years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents...

Despite the diversity, themes emerged. Even though not a single strain showed up in each subject, eight species were present on more than 70 percent of the subjects. And whenever these species appeared, they did so in huge numbers.
"That makes the belly button a lot like rain forests," Dunn said. In any given forest, he explained, the spectrum of flora might vary, but an ecologist can count on a certain few dominant tree types.
More at National Geographic and Wikipedia. [The most prevalent organisms were Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Actinobacteria, Clostridia, and Bacilli - pretty much like the skin in general].

See also omphaloskepsis, navel fetishism, and alvinolagnia.

"Instant karma" illustrated

In Kentucky some people built a 9-foot-tall snowman.
“We were playing in the snow, she’s from Mississippi so this is the most snow she’s ever seen in her entire life. I’m from Buffalo so this is no big deal,” Lutz said. “I love the snow!”
At night a local driver decided to ram the snowman with his truck.

The snowman had been built around the trunk of a dead tree.

Here's an interesting aspect of a border wall with Mexico

I was flipping past TV channels the other day and heard a new observation about "the wall."  I don't know whether it was part of a pro-wall or anti-wall comment, and I don't know who was speaking, but the gist was something I had not heard before.

If a wall is built along the length of the U.S./Mexico border, the easternmost part will have to contend with the presence of the Rio Grande river.  For practical reasons, the wall cannot be built in the river - it has to be on the shore, and on the American side.

This means that if anyone crosses the river (easy to do - you can wade across at certain places in certain seasons) they would be standing on United States soil and could ask for asylum.  They wouldn't need to cross the wall.

An interesting observation.  I'll leave the Comments section open for a while, as long as discussion remains civil.

BTW and unrelated: "In the 1640's the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam built a 12' wall to keep the bad hombres out. In 1664 the British ignored the wall and took New Amsterdam by sea. It's now called New York."

Image annotated from the original here.

A company will now transfuse you with a young person's blood

It may be batshit crazy, but it's real.  And it's legal.
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia, a startup that fills the veins of older people with blood from younger donors, hoping the procedure would help conquer aging by rejuvenating the body's organs...

The company is now up and running... Ambrosia... is now accepting payments for the procedure via PayPal. Two options are listed: 1 liter of young blood for $8,000, or 2 liters for $12,000...

Because blood transfusions are already approved by federal regulators, Ambrosia does not need to demonstrate that its treatment carries significant benefits before offering it to customers.

Karmazin said that "many" of the roughly 150 people who had received the treatment described benefits including renewed focus, better memory and sleep, and improved appearance and muscle tone.

However, it's tough to quantify these benefits before the study's findings are made public. There's also the possibility that simply traveling to a lab in Monterey and paying to enroll in the study could have made the people feel better.
The embedded image is of Elizabeth Bathory.  Only tangentially related, but I couldn't think of anything better.

"Self-lacing" sneakers are a thing now.

And they don't even have laces - just a contractile mesh, controlled by an app on your phone
The highlight of Adapt, which Nike is calling its "most advanced fit solution to date," is that you can control its power laces manually via physical buttons on the shoe or a companion app on your phone. When you put on the Adapt BB, the built-in custom motor with trained gears senses the tension needed by your feet and adjusts itself accordingly to keep each foot snug in the shoes. Nike says its new lacing system can create 32 pounds of force, about the same energy needed to pull a standard parachute cord, allowing it to stay locked in through any range of movement from a player.

Naturally, all this tech requires power, so you're going to have to charge the Adapt BBs eventually. According to Nike, the shoes can last up to 14 days on a full charge.
You'll be glad to hear that Nike "was able to bring the price down to $350."  And with your phone you can change the color of the little LED lights on the side.

I am so far behind the times...

16 January 2019

Grass grasshopper

An impressive origami creation "found on a tram in Japan."  Image cropped for size from the original in the mildlyinteresting subreddit.

Can you spot the grasshopper in this Van Gogh painting ?

You have to look closely.  Very closely...

... and remember that Van Gogh painted outdoors.
“But just go and sit outdoors, painting on the spot itself! Then all sorts of things like the following happen — I must have picked up a good hundred flies and more off the 4 canvases that you’ll be getting, not to mention dust and sand ... when one carries a team of them across the heath and through hedgerows for a few hours, the odd branch or two scrapes across them,” Van Gogh wrote.
More information at The Telegraph.

Ice disks - updated

I've previously posted photos of interesting ice formations, including round ice floes in Russia and a "creek circle" in Canada.  This photo above was posted at the cosmos of enlightened vision; the disk was reportedly seen on the Salmon River in Idaho.

Related:  Frazil ice at Yellowstone (video).

Reposted from 2011 to add this massive one:

This disc formed on the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine.  It's about a hundred meters in diameter.   Details, plus a rather unexciting video at Gizmodo, via Neatorama.

14 January 2019

"Pick of the Litter"

I watched this movie tonight and can recommend it unreservedly.  Rotten Tomatoes rating 100%.  Available on Netflix and probably your local library on DVD.  Just watch it.

Let's just call it a dinosaur and leave it at that...

Via ReplacesandcancelsthepreviousJohnnythehorse

Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - updated

Even if you're not normally interested in elections, this 2-minute video is worth viewing, because it may be representative of a major shift in U.S. politics.

In the New York Democratic primary election yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the incumbent Joe Crowley - by 15 percentage points.  The contrast between the candidates couldn't have been greater.  He has been a major figure in the current Democratic party for almost 20 years - fourth in seniority in the House of Representatives, and considered the likely replacement to Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker.

She is 28 years old, female, of Puerto Rican descent, with a working-class background, and is an advocate of socialist principles, such as Medicare for all.  She refused any corporate funding, relying only on small donations, and accumulated only $600,000 exclusively from small-dollar donors, versus Joe Crowley's $3,000,000.

She is considered by many to be representative of the future of the Democratic Party.
Ocasio-Cortez ran decidedly to the left of Crowley, but she also shook up how Democrats go about getting elected. Until now, Democrats have seen big money in politics as simply a deal with the devil that had to be made. Democrats are so often outspent by Republican mega-donors that they viewed courting big-dollar donors and corporations as part of creating a level playing field.

But if one of Democrats’ top fundraisers and likely successor to Nancy Pelosi can be toppled, perhaps Democrats need to rethink that deal.
She will easily sweep to victory in November over any Republican challenger; that result will have no effect on the national balance, because this district voted heavily for Hilary Clinton in the last election.  (Donald Trump's claim that Crowley lost of Ocasio-Cortez because Crowley was a "Trump-hater" is of course pure bullshit).

A seasoned CNN political analyst opined today that "The Democratic base is sick of the establishment."

One last observation regarding the often-talked-about "Blue Wave."  It's not certain that the Democrats will make major gains in the November mid-terms, but it is clear that a "blue wave" is already sweeping inside the Democratic Party.  Look at this graph from the Washington Post:

For eighteen years, the Republican Party has remained ideologically stable - about 2/3 conservative and about 10% liberal.  The Democratic Party has become steadily more liberal - from 29% to 50%  It's hard to believe that as recently as 2000, there were as many conservative Democrats as liberal ones.
Most of the Democrats who win primaries and then win election in November will not be as progressive as Ocasio-Cortez. Should the Democrats surge to victory, the new Congress will not be one in which Democratic Socialists are swarming the halls of power. But it will certainly be a more progressive Democratic caucus than the one that’s there or, probably, any in the last century.
If you read this without viewing the video, I encourage you to scroll up and spend 2 minutes watching it at full-screen.  I think it will become a template for a surge of similar campaign videos this fall.  And it cost only $10,000 to produce (she wrote the script for it, BTW).

Reposted from June 2018 to add the following from Axios:

"A freshman congresswoman who has held office for less than two weeks is dominating the Democratic conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions — retweets plus likes — than the five most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days... And she has far more power on Twitter than the most prominent Democrats, including the congressional leaders and the likely 2020 presidential candidates..."
  • "In short, she is the first — but certainly not the last — of an entirely new archetype: a politician that is not only fueled by the Internet, but born of it."

If (like me) you are not on Twitter, you can still monitor their tweets: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  Donald Trump (and others via the "You may also like" links in their left sidebars).

13 January 2019

Caption contest

Via ReplacesandcancelsthepreviousJohnnythehorse.

"Electrical bandages" for skin wounds

From Science Daily:
"... Researchers have developed a self-powered bandage that generates an electric field over an injury, dramatically reducing the healing time for skin wounds in rats...
As early as the 1960s, researchers observed that electrical stimulation could help skin wounds heal. .. To power their electric bandage, or e-bandage, the researchers made a wearable nanogenerator by overlapping sheets of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), copper foil and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The nanogenerator converted skin movements, which occur during normal activity or even breathing, into small electrical pulses. This current flowed to two working electrodes that were placed on either side of the skin wound to produce a weak electric field. The team tested the device by placing it over wounds on rats' backs. Wounds covered by e-bandages closed within 3 days, compared with 12 days for a control bandage with no electric field. The researchers attribute the faster wound healing to enhanced fibroblast migration, proliferation and differentiation induced by the electric field.
Via Neatorama.

12 January 2019

Night scene in the Atacama

NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day:
It can be the driest place on planet Earth, but water still flows in Chile's Atacama desert, high in the mountains. After discovering this small creek with running water, the photographer returned to the site to watch the Milky Way rise in the dark southern skies, calculating the moment when Milky Way and precious flowing water would meet. In the panoramic night skyscape, stars and nebulae immersed in the glow along the Milky Way itself also shared that moment with the Milky Way's satellite galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic clouds above the horizon at the right. Bright star Beta Centauri is poised at the very top of the waterfall. Above it lies the dark expanse of the Coalsack nebula and the stars of the Southern Cross.

Street art


The childhood of Garrett McNamara

"He had seen a great deal in his life. The kindest way to describe his upbringing is improvisational: His mother on her frenzied journey as a searcher spent years falling by the wayside, hoping for answers to life’s questions. She fled with the infant Garrett from Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Berkeley, California, where her marriage ended; she was just in time to hop aboard any vehicle—real or imaginary, or dabble in substances, legal or illegal, to help her in her quest. What her quest was, in Garrett’s telling, and in the pages of his 2016 memoir, Hound of the Sea, was never quite clear, but it seemed random and risky, her following one kook after another, settling for periods of time in communes and cults. Her searching extended as far as Central America, where, his mother later told him, 5-year-old Garrett witnessed his mother being kicked in the head by her enraged partner until she was bloody and unconscious. Her abuser was Luis, whom Garrett’s mother met on a road trip to Honduras. Every so often his mother abandoned Garrett, leaving him with strangers. In Guatemala a peasant farmer, recognizing the neglect, begged to adopt him. Garrett was willing and might have grown up tending a maize field, raising chickens and living on tamales. But his mother brought him back on the road.
After that, another fit of inspiration, another piquant memory. “My mother found God,” Garrett says. “That is, she joined a strange Christian cult, the Christ Family. They were dominated by a guy who called himself ‘Jesus Christ Lightning Amen’ and they were committed to getting rid of all material things—no killing, no money, no possessions, no meat.”

Garrett’s mother made a bonfire, in one sudden auto-da-fé in Berkeley, and tossed in all the combustible money they had, and all their clothes, their shoes, their beat-up appliances, until they were left with—what? Some bedsheets. And these bedsheets became their “robes”—one sheet wrapped like a toga, the other in a bundle over the shoulder.

“And there we were, my mother and my brother, Liam, and me, walking up Emerson Street in Berkeley, wearing these white robes—a rope for a belt—and we were barefoot. I ducked into the alleys so that none of my school friends would see me. I tried to hide. But they saw me in my robes. One of the worst humiliations of my life.”

He was 7. They slept rough and begged for food. “We ate out of trash cans and dumpsters from Mount Shasta to Berkeley, for six months or more.”
He is now a world-record-holding athlete.  The rest of the story is at Smithsonian.

11 January 2019

"Coffin birth" in a medieval grave

As reported by Smithsonian:
The unfortunate mother’s remains were found face-up in a stone grave, suggesting that she had been deliberately buried. Analysis by scientists at the University of Ferrara and University of Bologna revealed that the woman was between 25 and 35 when she died. Her fetus, whose gender could not be determined, appeared to have reached the 38th week of gestation, making it just two weeks shy of full term.
According to Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky, the baby’s legs were still inside its mother, but the head and upper body appeared to have been born after she died. The authors of the study suggest that the burial offers a rare example of “post-mortem fetal extrusion,” or “coffin birth,” which occurs when gases build up inside of the body of a deceased pregnant woman and force the fetus out of the birth canal. This gruesome phenomenon has only infrequently been observed in the archaeological record.
The skull also showed a hole consistent with trepanation with partial healing (the Smithsonian article suggests she may have had seizures from preeclampsia).

An eerie foreshadowing of the future

In 1958 a television series called Trackdown featured a segment in which a con man rode into town offering to protect the residents from certain death:
"Without my help and knowledge, every one of you will be dead... I am the only one!  Trust me!  I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate."

"You're a liar, Trump."
The 4-minute video embedded above is a trailer.  You can view the entire episode in a 23-minute video embedded at BoingBoing.

BTW, the actor playing the part of the Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman is a very young Robert Culp.

Health-care industry: $30 billion per year spent on marketing

From an article in JAMA:
From 1997 through 2016, spending on medical marketing of drugs, disease awareness campaigns, health services, and laboratory testing increased from $17.7 to $29.9 billion. The most rapid increase was in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, which increased from $2.1 billion (11.9%) of total spending in 1997 to $9.6 billion (32.0%) of total spending in 2016. DTC prescription drug advertising increased from $1.3 billion (79 000 ads) to $6 billion (4.6 million ads [including 663 000 TV commercials]), with a shift toward advertising high-cost biologics and cancer immunotherapies...

Health care spending in the United States is the highest in the world, totaling $3.3 trillion—17.8% of the gross domestic product in 2016. To capture market share and to expand the potential market, drug manufacturers, companies that manufacture clinical and home-based laboratory tests, and health care organizations use an array of promotional activities to sell their products and services. These activities seek to shape public and clinician perceptions about the benefits and harms of health care, prescription drugs, laboratory tests, and specific diseases and their definitions. Medical marketing influences behaviors and choices that can have important health consequences and also may adversely influence efforts to control unsustainable health care spending...

In 1997, DTC advertising spending for laboratory testing was almost exclusively for pregnancy/fertility tests, HIV tests, and glucose monitors, whereas by 2016, 64% of DTC advertising spending was for genetic tests... The most familiar DTC genetic testing involves consumers purchasing kits for ancestry, paternity, traits (eg, unibrow), wellness (eg, sleep), carrier status (eg, cystic fibrosis), and disease risk prediction (eg, Alzheimer disease) from the company, Amazon, or retailers such as pharmacies and big box stores. Some testing is marketed as a fun activity (eg, spitting parties), a thoughtful gift (eg, Christmas and Valentine’s day), or as adventurous (LivingDNA—Start Your Ancestry Adventure Today).

State attorneys general, who regulate nonprofit organizations, have not initiated any action against deceptive consumer advertising for health services...

Drug company advertisements increasingly offer coupons, rebates, or discounts to defray out-of-pocket costs particularly for expensive drugs and drugs with generic competition. These strategies have been criticized for encouraging use of expensive drugs despite lower-cost options, undermining insurance design, diminishing competitive pressure to lower prices, and ultimately shifting higher costs back to payers...

Disease awareness campaigns have used several approaches to promote conditions: memorable destigmatizing acronyms (eg, ED for erectile dysfunction), quizzes to define the disease and allow self-diagnosis, and encouragement to “ask your doctor” (often including question scripts) about symptoms, disease, and treatment...

More recently, some advertisements for cancer centers have emphasized hope and fear without mentioning treatment harms or quantifying benefit; some advertisements have used survivor testimonials falsely implying patients live longer or have better outcomes when treated at those centers...

The most heavily promoted drugs to physicians are less likely first-line treatments recommended in national guidelines compared with the most-prescribed or top-selling drugs, facts generally not evident in medical journal advertisements...
LOTS more information at the article, available full-text without a paywall at this link.

Cnidaria can be left-handed or right-handed

From Jellywatch (whence the image):
The genus Velella, known as the By-the-Wind sailor, and Porpita, known as blue-buttons (not to be confused with blue-bottles), are two interesting Hydrozoans (Cnidarians) that live at the surface of the water. Although they are blue-colored hydrozoans and float partly above the water like the Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia), they are not especially closely related to it or other siphonophores...
Velella typically live far offshore in open ocean waters, and their little sails help distribute them using the force of the wind. However because they sail only downwind or at a slight angle to the wind, they are often blown ashore in very high numbers, with millions piling onto beaches in drift rows. 

Most specimens are "left-handed" with the sail going from upper-left to lower-right along their long body axis, but a few are right-handed (Bieri, 1959).
And from The Australian Museum:
Physalia sails at a slight angle downwind and the course is determined by the curvature of the float and the underwater resistance of the rest of the colony. The float may project either to the left or to the right; the left-handed forms sail to the right of the wind and vice versa. Thus, if the sailing angle of one form leads to its stranding on the shore, the others sailing to the opposite side of the wind may escape.


Via Neatorama.

10 January 2019

Six more Sir Henry Merrivale mysteries

This is the ninth in an ongoing series of posts about the mystery novels of John Dickson Carr (aka Carter Dickson).  Last July I covered the first four Henry Merrivale novels.  In November I tackled the next five.  Six more today, discussing the language only, with no plot-spoiling comments.

And So To Murder (1940)
Not a locked-room mystery.  Plot rather weak.
"In Mr. Hackett's experience, the ladies who wrote passionate love-stories were usually either tense business women or acidulated spinsters..."  What Mark Twain would have called a "two-dollar word" that simply means "sour" (made more acid).

"She was very casual, but she swanked like billy-o."  To swagger, show off.  Billy-o is a slang term for "the greatest extent or degree of something."

"The speaking-tube whistled again."
"The speaking tube supplemented the array of remotely controlled hand bells that were operated in the upstairs rooms and rang in the servant's quarters in even modest houses in the 19th century. The phrase "get on the horn" and "give him a blow" as well as the use of "blower" as a synonym for "telephone" are generally accepted as having their origin in this feature of speaking tubes."
"The dozenth pledge was broken."  We've seen JDC use this odd word before, but I note while looking it up again that it may be preferable to twelfth when referring to the final entity in a set of twelve, because "twelfth" might imply the existence of a thirteenth. 

"... fell overboard and was confined to bed with 'flu."  Yet another example of proper indication of a shortened word [but then maybe it should be 'flu' ?]

"What's the matter, honey?" she asked, in a different voice.  "Got the whips and jingles?"  In context the implication was "are you in love?" but online dictionaries list it as an idiom for delirium, especially DTs.

"Monica's a nice kid.  She's what I'd call a ginch; sweet voice, and big eyes...:  Oxford dictionaries suggest "An attractive woman, especially (frequently depreciative) one regarded as an object of sexual gratification," with "earliest use found in John Dickson Carr." (!)  Other online dictionaries offer only demeaning definitions and usages.

"So he was a cashiered prophet, was he?"  Dismissed, discarded.

"... I'd rather take a chance and trust you than have you chivvyin' Joe all over the landscape..."  To pursue, chase, hurry along, sneak up on, or verbally abuse.   Probably from the title of the 15th century Ballad of Chevy Chase, about a hunt at a chase [estate where game may be hunted].

"He would be sitting in a spacious office, all mahogany and deep carpets, with bronze busts on bookcases, and an Adam fireplace."  Eighteenth century neoclassical, named after three Scottish brothers.

"She [actress] incited what young ladies in the ninepennies had been overheard to describe as a "goosey feeling."  Cheap seats in the theater.

"It was a conference to which Monica and Bill were not admitted; they were compelled to kick their heels and fume in an outer room."  To wait impatiently or restlessly.

Nine - and Death Makes Ten (1940)
Not a locked-room mystery, but has a fiendishly clever plot with a "last person you'd suspect" outcome.
"His trunk stood beside one of the white-counterpaned berths."  Quilt or blanket.  Etymology ultimately from Latin pannus = cloth.

"But needs must when the devil drives."

""Crab cocktail," said the doughty Lathrop, consulting his menu."  Brave bold, from Middle English.

"Beside the grand piano there was a full trap-drummer's outfit for dancing."  The outfit here is apparently not clothing but a "drum kit" [set of drums].  Re the "trap" I found "drums, cymbals, bells, etc.," 1925, from earlier trap drummer (1903) "street musician who plays a drum and several other instruments at once," perhaps from traps "belongings" (1813), shortened form of trappings.

"But, you're tight as an owl already.  Can you hold any more?"   Intoxicated, in context.  But an odd idiom; I haven't found any logic behind it.

"It sounded blattering and almost obscene."  Blather, foolish talk.  "1520s, blether, Scottish, probably from a Scandinavian source such as Old Norse blaðra "mutter, wag the tongue," perhaps of imitative origin, or from Proto-Germanic *blodram "something inflated" (the source of bladder)."

"... and then look like a martyr and say you're sure some poor goop will trust you?"  Silly, stupid person. 

"... like one of those nature-study motion pictures where they show a flower coming up whingo overnight."  I found nothing on this.

"She had him on the hip now.  She was winning this exchange..."  Borrowed from horse-racing I think, presumably the opponent's nose it at your horse's hip.

"The doctor laughed.  Max thought that his constant twingling, or laughing, or pointed innuendo, might have got on their nerves..."  I found nothing on this.

"... I could kick myself from here to the forepeak."  The part of the hold of a ship that is within the angle of the bow.

"Give me that torch," he said.  "If you try to press the button I'll have to slosh you."  British colloquial for "punch" (used here during a war blackout on a ship under submarine threat.)

"When I heard that [torpedo] alarm-signal go, I thought it might be a have."  In Australia/NZ it refers to a fraud or deception - would be correct in context here.

Seeing is Believing (1941)
Clever plot twist, but the reader is required to believe in the efficacy of hypnotism (a modern reader would be skeptical of this as a plot element, but 1930s readers were more accepting in that regard).  The book does make note of Henry Merrivale's birthday (Feb 6, 1871) and offers this concise precis by Chief Inspector Masters of Henry Merrivale's typical cases: "Whoever you think it can't be, that's always the person it is."
"... the polished hardwood floor, with rugs scattered on it, which was badly sprung in places and had a tendency to creak near the windows..."  In modern usage a sprung floor is a flexible one designed for dancing.  In context here it appears to refer to misaligned boards.

"... who now run a bucket-shop in the City and are almost as crooked as he was."  "An office with facilities for making bets in the form of orders or options based on current exchange prices of securities or commodities, but without any actual buying or selling of the property".  "The origin of the term bucket shop has nothing to do with financial markets, as the term originated from England in the 1820s. During the 1820s, street urchins drained beer kegs which were discarded from public houses. The street urchins would take the dregs to an abandoned shop and drink them. This practice became known as bucketing, and the location at which they drained the kegs became known as a bucket shop. The idea was transferred to illegal brokers because they too sought to profit from sources too small or too unreliable for legitimate brokers to handle."

"... life for George Byron Merrivale was not all ginger-pop either."  I found one other usage from 1925 referring to life not being all "ginger pop and chocolate cake."  Presumably viewed as a luxury.

"'Oh, I was no mollycoddle,' said H.M.... "  Pampered, overprotected person. "one who coddles himself," from Molly (pet name formation from Mary), which had been used contemptuously since 1754 for "a milksop, an effeminate man," + coddle (q.v.).

"Sir Henry Merrivale, in a white short-sleeved shirt and white flannels, was engaged in playing clock-golf."  "Clock golf is a game based on golf, originating in the mid 19th century. Players putt a golf ball from each in turn of 12 numbered points arranged in a circle as in a clock face, to a single hole placed within the circle."

"It would be rather awful, wouldn't it, if somebody we thought figured in one rôle really figured in exactly the opposite rôle?"  Discussion thread about the use/nonuse of the circumflex.

"... immersed in a curious anecdote about the Devenport brothers and their use of a lazy-tongs in the middle-'eighties."   A pantograph (item that extends or contracts like an accordion) (see the example of the mirror at the link).  Also the use of an apostrophe on "eighties" to make note of an elision.

"Would you like me to rub some embrocation on [a sore spot]?" Moistening or rubbing with spirit or oil.  From Latin and Greek for "lotion."

"Played the rip..."  In context, unfaithful to a spouse.

"But that very evening the case had the tin hat put on it when Agnew reported..."  "To put the tin hat on something is to finish it off or bring it to an end."  Thought to be an expression from the First World War.

The Gilded Man (1942)
Very gratifying to finally solve one (murderer, method, and motive) before the reveal at the end - but it required stopping near the end and spending an evening rereading from page one onward again.  Also notable for JDC's incorporation of humor unrelated to the plot, as for example after Sir Henry Merrivale finished his performance in the persona of "The Great Kafoozalum" for a magic show at the country estate, attended by a particularly annoying schoolmarm:
... H.M. himself [was] still in costume of the Great Kafoozalum, with a small girl clinging tightly to either hand.  The boys, though sneeringly disdaining such effete signs of friendship, nevertheless circled round and round him like Red Indians at a campfire, firing questions faster than newspaper reporters.
"Was it a trick when you dropped Miss Clutterbuk down the trap-door?"
"Why did you tie her up like that?  Was it the Indian rope-trick?"
"And gag her?"
"Did she really have that bottle of gin in her handbag?"
"Why didn't she reappear again on top of the bar counter, like you said she was going to?"
"Well, now, son, I expect something went wrong with the spell.  These tough old hyenas are pretty hard to put the hoodoo eye on..." 
But on to the language...
"... she was pretty, in the conventional sense of good features and rather wax-bloom complexion."  Not quite sure about this.  I found the word used to refer to the migration of salt to the surface ("efflorescence") of a artwork (especially colored pencils), and the coating of wax on the outer surface of a plant cuticle.  Also happens to lipstick. Can't quite see the application to complexion.

"Do you know what a beignoir is?"..."They have them in French theaters... a private box, a sort of cell with a hole cut in the wall, where people in mourning can go to the performance without being observed."

"El Greco, who saved his fingers from the Inquisition, had called that picture The Pool."  Presumably there's an interesting story behind this, but I couldn't find it.

"You come charging in here and look jail at everybody instead."  Another idiom I couldn't find.

"It's an old trick... Like the anonymous-letter ramp, you see."  Still another I couldn't find.  Not having a good day.

"Don't be surprised if you find my dabs on that knife." In context: fingerprints - presumably with reference to the method they are obtained.

"H.M. picked it up, while Nick retailed the evidence of the fingerprints."  To repeat or circulate.

"The flicker of firelight, from under a carved overmantel as big as an arch..."  Decorative panel over a fireplace (pix).

"... she was half-whistled herself." I finally found whistle-drunk meaning "too drunk to whistle."

"He says you hit him in the mush, whatever that is, with a snowball."  Mouth or face [Brit. informal]

"Commander Dawson, sitting in one of the embryo boxes with his feet irreverently on the rail..." ????

"... anybody but a Child Psychologist would have seen that this bottling-up presaged signs of explosion in a first-class beano."  Noisy celebration or party, also called beanfeast.

"On his head the Great Kafoozalum wore a huge bulging turban, fastened in front with a single paste ruby, from which a tall white aigrette rose up like the radio antennae of a police car."  Feather or plume (etymology from egret).

 "But it bled like billy-o."  (see above)

She Died a Lady (1943)
A mystery that relies a lot on the science of footprints, and a novel that has a bit too much forced humor, but one that reveals the murderer as absolutely the very last person you would expect.  I'll say no more.
"... a little causerie with her father--"  Informal conversation (from the French).

"I saw the quick, glutinous interest of the eye, and I didn't like it."  Glue-like.  Not sure how this applies to a gaze, except perhaps as a fixed stare.

"He'll go before the beak in the morning, and get fined ten shillings."  Court/judge in context.  Also used to refer to a schoolmaster.  Derivation not found - perhaps relates to an article of clothing or headwear?

"... Tom large and breckled and hollow-eyed..."  Couldn't find anything - not even in my OED.  Perhaps it's a printing error?

"It was while I was bucketing around a curve past Shire Oak..." Driving, in context.  Found definition "to travel quickly," "to move jerkily", and "to ride a horse hard," but not sure why.

He Wouldn't Kill Patience (1944)
Classic locked-room murder.  A herpetologist (and his favorite Bornese tree-snake named Patience) are found dead in his office at the Royal Albert Zoological Gardens.  Gas from a fireplace has asphyxiated them both.  The office is hermetically sealed, with locked door and windows, and with paper glued over the keyhole and other spaces ("Every microscopic opening in that room - the tiny little crack under the door, the keyhole, the joins of the two windows where the sashes meet - every place is sealed up as tight as a drumhead by glued paper fastened on the inside.")  So it appears to be suicide, but... "he wouldn't kill Patience."
"Aloof, disdainful of the canaille, he moved majestically down between the rows of specimens."  The lowest class of people; the rabble; the vulgar (from the French).

"The young man waved a brief-case."  Interesting to see the word hyphenated.  A reminder that originally it was a carrying case for legal briefs.

"In the middle of the front lawn, clearly seen by westering sunlight, stood a thickset man..."  Moving toward the west, obviously.  Apparently there is also an eastering.  And northering.

"Up to this time [the theater's] windows had been blind-eyed, its little foyer closed..."  not blitz-blackout-related since the time period is since 1928.  A search yielded many descriptions of blind-eyed buildings, but no definition.  Not apparently curtained, because often refers to abandoned buildings.  Maybe it's empty windows like blind eyes in a face.

"In that event, it wouldn't be worth while opening the new show."  Interesting to see it written as two words.

"It was very warm and stuffy in the sitting-room.  Its blackout, thick rep material, showed unevenly..."  A cloth woven with ribs.

"... Carey chose a B-middle-size and probed for the wards of the lock." (while trying to pick it).  Presumably the "protected part" inside the outer covering.

"Even Sir Henry Merrivale... fussed over her like a boiled owl."  Odd.  The Oxford Reference defines as "very drunk": "also drunk as a biled owl, …an owl, …two hoot owls, full as a boiled owl, lushy as…, tight as…, stewed as an owl, tight as…)"

"Far below, through the ropes and cords and raised drop-scenes of the flies, he could see a dim stage... His eyes moved over the cluttered stage, the battens with their pouring rays, the big dim theatre."  Flies in a theater refers to the "rigging system of rope lines, blocks (pulleys), counterweights and related device."  In a theater, battens are lengths of timber used to stiffen a surface of canvas.
Enough.  There's a limit on how much time I'm willing to spend searching arcane words and outdated dialect.

Four of the above are now listed on eBay.

08 January 2019

Interesting Little Free Library

Via the pics subreddit.  I kind of liked this snarky comment: "It's like a house of horrors for trees. Inside the corpse of their former comrade are the processed remnants of their treebrothers and treesisters."
Sharalee Howard is the artist who created this epic Little Free Library inside a more than 100-year-old cottonwood tree stump outside her home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Howard was inspired when her family decided to remove most of the tree after branches began to fall. The core of the tree was starting to rot, and she felt inspired to create one inside the stump that remained from the tree. The library features a swinging glass door, steps, and interior and exterior lights.
Gif of this library here.  Little Free Library home [75,000 registered so far].

Tonsillectomy without anesthesia in Belarus

I've been debating whether to post this, because it will distress many viewers, so as I did with the last potentially offensive video, I'll embed it at the bottom of the post after these cautionary statements.
The video shows the tonsils being removed from a child, apparently in Belarus.  No anesthesia is used.  The child is restrained and under considerable emotional stress.  The medical staff are not speaking harshly or being intentionally cruel.  The procedure itself takes about one minute.  It is bloody.

This will be disturbing to some viewers.  On the other hand, this is real life.  This is how things are done in some parts of the world.  This is how this (and similar or worse) procedures were done in antiquity.

Remember the old adage: "what has been seen cannot be unseen" - then make your decision.
Addendum: Ninabi notes "...from airing this sad, scary video in Ireland, funds were raised for an anesthetic machine for this hospital."

Reposted from 2010, because even after eight years this post is continuing to acquire interesting comments.

Changes to the rules of golf for 2019

Selections from a longer list at Outtabounds:
1. Search time - Reduced from 5 minutes to 3 minutes
2. Ball moved during search - Replace, no penalty
3. Embedded ball - Free relief anywhere through the course
7. Ball unintentionally hits player or equipment - No penalty
9. Touching sand in bunker incidentally is permitted
10. Loose impediments can be removed anywhere including hazards
11. Dropping a ball out of bunker - 2 penalty strokes
13. Touching ground in penalty area - No penalty
14. Ball moves on green after being marked - Replace without penalty
15. Ball accidentally moved on putting green - Replace without penalty
19. Putting with flag stick in hole is now permitted.
20. Ball wedged between flag stick and side of hole is deemed holed
Still waiting for "Moving ball out from behind tree - no penalty."

The "tears in rain" soliloquy

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
I suppose I watched Blade Runner two or three times before I finally came to view this very brief soliloquy by the replicant as one of the key thematic moments of the film.
Hauer, director Ridley Scott, and screenwriter David Peoples asserted that Hauer wrote the "Tears in Rain" speech... In his autobiography, Hauer said he merely cut the original scripted speech by several lines, adding only "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain" although the original script, displayed during the documentary, before Hauer's rewrite, does not mention "Tanhauser Gate"...

Hauer said that these final lines showed that Batty wanted to "make his mark on existence... the robot in the final scene, by dying, shows Deckard what a real man is made of."

When Hauer performed the scene, the film crew applauded and some even cried. This was due to the power of the dying speech coming at the end of an exhausting shoot.
Reposted from 2017 because today is Roy Batty's birthday ("incept date") - as documented by this screencap from an early scene in the movie:

06 January 2019

"Forest kindergartens"

Best video of the week, especially if you have any interest in childhood education.
A forest kindergarten is a type of preschool education for children between the ages of three and six that is held almost exclusively outdoors. Whatever the weather, children are encouraged to play, explore and learn in a forest or natural environment. The adult supervision is meant to assist rather than lead. It is also known as Waldkindergarten (in German), outdoor nursery, nature kindergarten, or nature preschool.

The daycare staff and children spend their time outdoors, typically in a forest. A distinctive feature of forest kindergartens is the emphasis on play with toys that are fashioned out of objects that can be found in nature, rather than commercial toys. Despite these differences, forest kindergartens are meant to fulfill the same basic purpose as other nurseries, namely, to care for, stimulate, and educate young children.  
Helicopter parents will go berserk watching this.

Related: Free-range parenting punished.

Fish skins used to treat burn wounds

Veterinarians at UC Davis are using fish skin to treat wild bears burned in that state's recent wildfires.  This is not a graft, but rather a biologic bandage.  Tilapia skin has also been applied to the paws of a young mountain lion.
“You want to do everything possible to get these animals feeling better. It’s not their fault they were in this horrible fire and they’re in a strange environment and they don’t know what’s going on and they hurt.”

Giving them a long time to recover wasn’t an option. The team didn’t want to risk having the bears acclimate to people or captivity. Standard care, which would require frequent bandage changes, would also be difficult with a wild animal...

Peyton remembered reading about a group in Brazil that had used sterilized tilapia skins to successfully treat burns on humans. While the treatment had never been performed in the United States and never on animals, Peyton decided it was worth trying.

The high collagen level in the fish skins helps with healing and acts like a matrix,” said Peyton. “It would act as protection and it was pretty inexpensive and available.”..

“In our view, there was no downside,” said Peyton. The fish skins are even edible, and no reactions to the skins were observed. The mountain lion, which received the same treatment as the bears, ended up eating his.
More details and photos.

Mommy, what's a "double Irish, Dutch sandwich"?

"The double Irish with a Dutch sandwich is a tax avoidance technique employed by certain large corporations, involving the use of a combination of Irish and Dutch subsidiary companies to shift profits to low or no tax jurisdictions. The scheme involves sending profits first through one Irish company, then to a Dutch company, and finally to a second Irish company headquartered in a tax haven. This technique has made it possible for certain corporations to reduce their overall corporate tax rates dramatically."
Example provided by Reuters:
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Google moved 19.9 billion euros ($22.7 billion) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017, as part of an arrangement that allows it to reduce its foreign tax bill, according to documents filed at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce...

The subsidiary in the Netherlands is used to shift revenue from royalties earned outside the United States to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax.

The tax strategy, known as the “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich”, is legal and allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the funds, which represent the bulk of its overseas profits. 
Google responds that they comply with tax laws.  True.

How to make "tree cookies"

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees or less, heat for 3 to 5 hours.  The rest of the directions are provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.  Photo via Acorn Naturalists.

Hotel room insecurity

04 January 2019

"Lash lifts" are different from extensions

Excerpts from an article at Real Simple:
As the newest “it” trend on the beauty block, lash lifts are making major waves–and for good reason. Not only does the procedure require little effort, it also lasts longer than eyelash extensions with fewer potential side effects. You can also customize your results from the shape of the curl to adding a a tint if you don't plan on wearing mascara every day.

A lash lift is a semi-permanent treatment best described as a perm for your eyelashes. "A lift is essentially what your lash would be doing with a really good mechanical curler... The technician separates your lower and upper lashes and applies a silicone pad to your upper lid. He or she then glues your lashes to the pad to start shaping your eyelashes into a deeper curl. Three lotions containing the right chemicals are then applied...

The cost of a lash lift can vary depending on your location and the expertise of your technician, but customers can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $150.
More details at the link.   Not discussed is whether the procedure renders your cornea more susceptible to dust, gnats, etc.

Canadian cannabis tourism thriving ("bud and breakfast")

As reported by Vice:
With Canadians slated to spend $7 [$5.19] billion on marijuana sales in 2019, it’s no surprise there is a new wave of luxury weed tourism companies popping up. They offer bespoke itineraries for high-end tourists who want weed in style—whether it’s $155 hemp oil massages, a cannabis-infused dinner for $175 [$130] or a cannabis wedding for $3,000 [$2225]...

“Cannabis tourism will be a healthy part of the tourism industry, which has not yet embraced cannabis,” said Kush’s founder, Neev Tapiero. “We have differently priced packages for different people. People are more likely to spend more, or splurge, while on vacation, and custom or bespoke experiences are modern trends in the current tourism market.”..

Though it sounds like party central, there’s more to it than just light up and blaze—there’s an educational aspect on microdosing, edibles, vaping, and beyond. “Our customers seem to enjoy learning about the different kinds of ways to consume cannabis,” said Surerus. “We explore the different benefits of how topical, edibles, and concentrated cannabis can be an alternative to the traditional method of just smoking the plant.” 

Durgin-Park is closing

I suppose everyone has certain restaurants or certain restaurant meals that are forever embedded in their memory.  I'll never forget the Marine Room near San Diego, with its plate glass windows facing west over the Pacific, only a stone's throw from the high-tide mark (I believe it was later heavily damaged by an intense storm).  For decades I have skipped my free breakfast in hotels in order to visit the Outdoorsman Cafe in Walker Minnesota, to have their hash browns and egg breakfast.  And the "earlybird" cheap lobster dinners at the West Street Cafe near Acadia National Park were unforgettable (the restaurant now apparently having gone upscale and moved downtown to the tourist area).

But my earliest restaurant memories go back just over 50 years to the spring of 1968 when I had the opportunity to have dinner at Durgin-Park.  IIRC, we took the MTA to Haymarket, then walked past open market stalls selling fish and flowers, then up some stairs to a noisy room where we were seated at a long table next to people we didn't know and served superb food that even a college student could afford.

I was disappointed to hear that Durgin-Park expects to close its doors next week:
Durgin-Park, a Faneuil Hall staple since 1827, will be closing on January 12. Employees of the historic restaurant were notified about the decision to close Wednesday.  Durgin-Park is one of the oldest restaurants in the country. It gained a reputation for its good-hearted waitresses being nearly as “fresh” as its fish... Parent company Ark Restaurants based out of New York says it’s the nature of the business – and that the restaurant just isn’t making money like it used to.
And it seems kind of sleazy for the parent company to give longstanding employees only 10 days notice of closure.

Readers, feel free to leave suggestions on your memorable restaurants/meals in the comments section.

Interesting idea

01 January 2019

Divertimento #159

We're long overdue for a gif-fest...

Population growth of the United States states, viewed as a horserace

Boy falls from third floor, is accidentally saved by his friend

How to position a can opener

Near-death experience

Sharpening a pencil with a lathe

Apparently these modified trucks are "bed-dancers."

Cleaning a rug


Dog worried that the screen door might be closed

Why did the salmon cross the road?

Mantisfly looks like a wasp

Beavers are hardwired to build dams

Pronghorn antelope on the move

Cat's paw

Scorpion and her babies

Rattlesnakes under a windmill

A piebald deer

Cane toads riding on (or trying to mate with) a python


A new collegiate football record 95-yard punt

"Expecto patronum" at a Polish soccer match.  These fans should see a video of the Bradford fire.

Cheap shot in a basketball game [violence]

Incredible volleyball save/point off a player's foot (top video, recommend fullscreen to see)

Incredible table tennis volley

Bowler rolls a 299.


Impressive or clever

Traffic light poles also light up

How action scenes are filmed.  And this one with a green screen.

How to lift heavy furniture

Jewelry store glass is sturdy

Portrait made with 13,000 dice.


Skilled workman installs tile

Folding linen napkins

Two heads, five hats

A better way to get pepper out of a shaker

Paintings on parade


Touchscreen voting problem

How not to store a boat trailer

Do not lean into a bullring [violence]

Selfie photo session

Wretched design of a toilet stall door

You had one job!


Girl with alopecia goes on a first date

Brain-damaged dog has "happy trots"

Deaf child visits Santa Claus

UPS delivery man greeted by local squirrel

When you're not a "morning person"

Photos by Julian Tsai, from a gallery at Bonsai Empire.
"The Taikan-ten is one of Japan's leading Bonsai exhibitions, with an incredibly high level of Bonsai trees on display. It takes place each year in November, in Kyoto."

This is an "ice carousel"

It goes round-and-round, powered by about a half dozen good-sized outboard motors.

Sort of related: Round ice.

Addendum:  More on Minnesota ice carousels.

And more:
The latest battle in a cold war waged in Minnesota, Maine, Finland and Estonia was fought this week in Little Falls, Minn.

At stake: bragging rights for who can create the world’s biggest ice carousel... now extreme ice carousel builders across the world are one-upping one another in a challenge to create the biggest and best.

The latest attempt: An ice carousel in Little Falls that is about 500 feet in diameter, as wide as the Foshay Tower is tall, is spinning away on Green Prairie Fish Lake... There will also be four 40-foot carousels spinning within the larger carousel.
Short video at the link.

Execrable waste bin design

Overhead view.  Note the placement of the bin labels.  Via.

New Year's Day here in Wisconsin

First snow of the season (nothing to shovel in December!) arrived as a "wintry mix" of wet snow that clung to vegetation. 
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