08 March 2019

Extended blogcation

In recent years I've taken occasional brief breaks from the blog for a few days or a week, but now I've decided to take an extended leave of at least two weeks.

This will be a respite not just from blogging, but also from ebaying and gaming - no Sim City, no Civilization V.  It will be a much-needed rest for my trigger thumb and for my psyche, especially as this record-cold, multi-roofraking, uber-unpleasant winter drags to an end.  I'm also going to close the comments on some recent posts because I won't be curating them.  No keyboard activities for the next two weeks.  Doctors' orders.

And now I'm... outta here.

The antiquity of "Snakes and Ladders"

According to Veda, the game was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev.
In the original game square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares where the ladder was found. Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares where the snake was found. The Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha.
More info:
Snakes and Ladders originated in India as part of a family of dice board games that included Gyan chauper and pachisi (present-day Ludo and Parcheesi). The game made its way to England and was sold as "Snakes and Ladders", then the basic concept was introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.

The game was popular in ancient India by the name Moksha Patam. It was also associated with traditional Hindu philosophy contrasting karma and kama, or destiny and desire. It emphasized destiny, as opposed to games such as pachisi, which focused on life as a mixture of skill (free will) and luck. The underlying ideals of the game inspired a version introduced in Victorian England in 1892. The game has also been interpreted and used as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds versus bad. The board was covered with symbolic images, the top featuring gods, angels, and majestic beings, while the rest of the board was covered with pictures of animals, flowers and people.

The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life. The number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins. Presumably, reaching the last square (number 100) represented the attainment of Moksha (spiritual liberation).

When the game was brought to England, the Indian virtues and vices were replaced by English ones in hopes of better reflecting Victorian doctrines of morality. Squares of Fulfillment, Grace and Success were accessible by ladders of Thrift, Penitence and Industry and snakes of Indulgence, Disobedience and Indolence caused one to end up in Illness, Disgrace and Poverty. While the Indian version of the game had snakes outnumbering ladders, the English counterpart was more forgiving as it contained each in the same amount. This concept of equality signifies the cultural ideal that for every sin one commits, there exists another chance at redemption.
Interesting that success in the game as originally designed depended entirely on luck (roll of dice) with no apparent skills or strategy involved; perhaps that's part of the karma lesson.  AFAIK, the American version didn't incorporate any virtues or sins - it was more like random good and bad luck.  I may be misremembering.  But I certainly didn't know it was an ancient game.

07 March 2019

Elaborate warded lock

Found at the mildlyinteresting subreddit.
These are called warded locks. If the key wasn't the same shape as the ward, the lock wouldn't open. Older versions were pretty easy to pick by modern standards, but wards are still in use. Modern locks have a plate on the front of them that defines the shape of key that the lock will accept. That's why you need to get a key cut from the appropriate blank or it won't work. If you check your keys, odds are very good that stamped on the bow (the part of the key that you hold to turn it in the lock) is a small letter/number code that identifies the blank and therefore the shape of the ward.
Source: Former institutional (i.e. corporate) locksmith.
Warded locks are an old type of lock where the key has to pass over several obstructions (wards) as it rotates, before it can engage with the mechanism and unlock. It doesn't refer to the shape to which the blank must conform (the shape of the keyway), but the shape to which the final key must conform.

You are correct regarding warded locks using internal wards to stop a key from rotating unless it was the correct shape (unless it was a skeleton key, which bypassed these internal wards). But using that definition for a ward is too narrow. Wards are physical obstructions that stop the key from entering or turning the lock.

If the ward stops the key from entering the lock, it's a keyway ward. In the lock, they're the protrusions from the keyway that necessitate the grooves that are cut down the length of the key. They partly define the shape of the blanks (in addition to other things like the number of pins in the cylinder). The cuts on the blade of modern keys are generally there to align the shear line on internal pins to open the lock and are therefore not associated with wards. Exceptions to this would be for things like control keys on interchangeable format cores, which allow the lock to be removed from the door with the simple turn of a key (great for swapping out office locks). I've also seen some modern padlocks, cubicle cabinet locks, and the like that use internal wards, but they're generally low quality.

Why is stuff like this allowed to exist ?

Good day to you.

My name is [redacted], a renowned Togo based lawyer. I am writing in connection to your late relative who died along with his wife and only Son in an auto accident.

I have contacted you for the repartration of his money valued at sixteen million five hundred thousand dollars and the also the claiming of his estate. Get back to me for more clarification; Looking forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully, [redacted]. 
I redacted the name in order to not give the scammer any publicity. We have all received emails like this, and any sensible person recognizes it as fake.  In fact my understanding is that scams like this are intentionally written in this floridly bogus style so as not to accidentally entrap any sophisticated computer users, their targets being only the totally naive internet users and those with mental impairments.

As the son of an elderly mother who had advanced dementia, it annoys me that this type of material continues to exist.  I understand that much of it arises overseas in places beyond the jurisdiction of the American court system, but I can't believe that no mechanism exists to shut it down or punish the malefactors. 

"Kulning" explained

Kulning is an ancient herding call that Swedish women have practiced for hundreds of years. But in recent decades, Jinton says, it’s been largely forgotten.

According to Susanne Rosenberg, professor and head of the folk music department at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and kulning expert, the vocal technique likely dates back to at least the medieval era. In the spring, farmers sent their livestock to a small fäbod, or remote, temporary settlement in the mountains, so cows and goats could graze freely. Women, young and old, accompanied the herds, living in relative isolation from late May until early October...

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds...

Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels—which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away... Some women have even learned the far-carrying cries as a form of self-defense...
Via Neatorama.

Adults living in the state where they were born

Via Digg

How a "wealth tax" would work

Too many people still don't understand the difference between a wealth tax and an income tax, and don't understand marginal rates.  Show this video to your friends who are in that group.

Recycling is breaking down

It appears there are diminishing choices of where to recycle TO...
China, once the single-largest buyer for U.S. recyclables, banned the import of two dozen types of “foreign waste” and imposed strict quality standards on the recyclables it’ll accept. Nationwide, municipalities are facing higher costs and being forced to find stopgap solutions, from incinerators to landfills, for recyclables that have nowhere else to go...

Mixed paper and plastic exports to China plunged more than 90 percent between January 2017 and January 2018, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission. As the industry scrambled to find new buyers, prices went through the floor. Anne Germain, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the National Waste and Recycling Association, an industry trade group, told me that mixed paper went from selling for about $100 a ton to a high of about $3 a ton...

As Scott McGrath, Environmental Planning Director at the City of Philadelphia Streets Department explained, the city was recently making good money selling its recyclables to processors, with the price peaking at $67 a ton in 2012. By January 2018, Philly was paying its contractor, Republic Services, $20 a ton to continue taking recycling. By the summer, that figure had jumped to $40 a ton. When the city started trying to renegotiate its contract, which expired in September, Republic Services asked for $170 a ton to keep recycling.
Meanwhile, Canadian forests are still being harvested for American toilet paper

The anatomy of parrot vocalization

06 March 2019


"Director François Ozon’s elegiac tale of love and remembrance is set in a small German town in the aftermath of World War I, where a young woman mourning the death of her fiancé forms a bond with a mysterious Frenchman who has arrived to lay flowers on her beloved’s grave."
I watched this movie tonight and can unreservedly recommend it.  The pacing is slow at first as the characters are introduced, but the movie is beautifully filmed and well worth watching.

04 March 2019

Divertimento #161

I haven't done a gif-based linkfest since January.   Hundreds of gifs bookmarked.  Let's go...

Here's what socialist Denmark does for new mothers

Scooping honey from a honeycomb

Deceptive size of beer glass at Applebees

A reminder that a triangle can be made of three right angles

Street scene in Grindewald, Switzerland

European drivers understand to leave road open for emergency vehicles

The speed of light between earth and moon in real time

Cracking open an opal vein in a rock.  Another "boulder opal"

Boston Dynamics' "Big Dog" has been improved

U.S. numbered highway system.  In numerical order.

Child's "activity trunk" ripoff

"Cardominos" are a variant of traditional dominos

Reportedly a meth addict on the street; video mixed with BeeGees

A knight's sabaton (footwear) was very flexible

Backflip in front of a mirror... not.

Zaouli African dance

Drone flight through fireworks

A wrestler seems to appear out of nowhere


Penguin gets separated from his/her group

Giraffe being attacked by lions

People work together to save a dog

Play with a cat.  What can go wrong?

Bald eagle swims to shore with its lunch (bullhead, I think)

Awesome rack on a buck

Journalist goes to animal shelter to write a story

Dog "confined" to a cage

Rhombic egg-eater has a defensive display

Devil rays flying

Clever mouse escapes

What's coming down the hall?

What's under that tiny air bubble at the beach?

Service dog has to learn about glass floor

Dog digs a hole.  Sort of.  "Dog.exe has failed"

After public pool closes, dogs are allowed in (fundraiser, fun for dogs)


College basketball player injures his face on the backboard

Referee dodges a pass in the Alabama/Clemson game

Michael Jordan pre-game ritual

Jessie Graff, ninja warrior.  The lady clapping is her mom 

Pool table trick, hard to appreciate until you see the slow motion

Impressive or clever

How to hide alcohol at a sports event

Cutting a fallen tree

Pancake production line at a fair or carnival

A Novascope is a kind of kaleidoscope

Falling tree unleashes a missile

Cutting clay to reveal art

Cutting a watermelon for sharing

Why you shouldn't touch decorative cattails indoors

Machine wraps hay bales. And another one.

Arborist deploying a portawrap

"Seabreacher" is a new aquatic toy

Disarming a man wielding a knife

Skydiver enters an airplane

Ferrari pit team perfection

Superb moonwalk

What water does to a grease fire

Use your drone to remove a hornet's nest

Glider takeoff

Drone-propelled flying chair

TIL that there are silicone sheets that match the size and weight of pizza dough

Fails (I shouldn't have to leave a trigger warning for this category...)

How not to open champagne

Don't throw lighted cigarettes into underground chambers.

And don't put a firecracker down there either 

Man puts a firecracker into a smoker grill.

Trying to kill a spider

A "snow gun" for people who can't make or throw snowballs

Try to impress people by drinking flaming alcohol

Don't play with an electric fence in a field that has cow patties (skip to start at 1:45)

Deer versus bicyclist.  Both lose.

"Don't mix fire with stupid"

Serious injury from a ridiculous bicycle stunt

Fossil unlocked by a master preparator

Freezing rain + steep driveway.  Note impressive loss of both shoes.


Girl gives her scarf to a homeless dog

Toddler dances to music of buskers

A compilation of four-generation families

Be careful of that step

People work together to save a dog

Man admires old car in parking lot (story at the link)

Child playing hide and seek 

Helping a deer on a frozen lake

Leaving the house with wet hair in the winter

Man rescues dogs from garbage dump

Oofda.  Enough for now.  That empties seven folders with 12 bookmarks each.  Lots more for later.  There are undoubtedly some incorrectly-pasted links; let me know.

The embedded images are selections from a larger gallery at Bored Panda.

It's not a urinal. It's a "speibecken"

Essentially an enormous German emesis basin.   Note the large-diameter discharge pipe and the convenient handholds on the wall.  Not sure if the metal plate is a headrest (?), but it seems to contain a motion detector for the flushing.

Discussion thread at the whatisthisthing subreddit:
"These make sense in bars but they actually have these in the jockey quarters at Churchill Downs for the jockeys to vomit before racing in the Kentucky Derby to further minimize their weight. Seriously."

"Mostly in every brewery in Germany. And some bars do have it. In breweries you normally do a guided tour and afterwards you are allowed to drink as much as you want for a certain time. So that’s when the vomit „urinal“ comes in handy."
Wikipedia page on Speibecken (auf Deutsch).  (auf English)

Useful map of Kashmir

A region that will probably be recurrently in the news this year.  This map shows the disputed boundaries (which is basically the entire region).  Credit Washington Post.

Extreme free-range chicken farming

From the always-interesting Atlas Obscura:
Massimo Rapella, a 48-year-old chicken farmer from northern Italy, is helping chickens rediscover their wild side. Since 2009, Rapella and his wife Elisabetta have been keeping an estimated 2,100 hens in a patch of pristine Alpine forest near Sondrio, in the heart of the Valtellina valley...

Shortly after relocating, Rapella and his wife started keeping a few chickens to provide eggs for their own consumption. But soon enough they noticed some unexpected behavior from their flock. “Our chickens liked roaming around the nearby woods,” Rapella explains. “So I encouraged them to venture out and lay eggs in the wild.”

A few months later, Rapella saw that the birds looked healthier—with shiny feathers and bright-colored wattles—and that their eggs had a fuller taste. “I started wondering if I could take on more chickens and create an ‘Alpine egg’ to sell in local markets,” he says. Today, he sells his uovo di selva, or egg of the woods, to about 400 direct consumers and 40 restaurants...

Most domestic chickens today would not find themselves at home in a forest: at least, not immediately. “The first large batch of chickens I took in looked very lost,” Rapella says. “They had never seen a tree nor a bug in their life, and they were scared of snow.”..

“White birds really stand out to predators,” Clauer says. Rapella keeps two different breeds of chicken: Hy-Line brown hens and the easy-to-spot white Leghorns. While he once lost the occasional chicken, now he relies on a double fence and two trained Maremma sheepdogs to keep badgers, martens (a weasel-like carnivore), foxes, and buzzards at bay.

Rapella’s chickens lay eggs almost every day, like any domesticated chicken, but they do so in the woods. “They like natural nests offered by tree roots or branches,” he says. “Usually when you spot a cranny with some leaves, you know there could be eggs.” Once a hen finds her favorite nesting spot, she goes back to it for each subsequent laying, making Rapella’s egg-hunting easier. Together with two employees, he gathers an estimated 1,000 eggs every morning.

His uovo di selva tastes like egg, but concentrated. There’s more flavor to it, and also more protein, due to the bug-filled diet of the chickens. As a result, when chefs whip the whites from Rapella’s protein-rich eggs, they get three times the volume. The egg yolk can even change with the seasons...
More at the link.

Cool graphic of Lake Baikal and the Great Lakes

I don't remember if I've ever featured the Great Lakes profile (right portion of the graphic) in TYWKIWDBI before.  Redditor u/buak added in Lake Baikal for comparison.  There are various inaccurate aspects, but the overall depiction of relative depth and elevation are interesting.

From the discussion thread at the MapPorn subreddit, I learned that Baikal is home to some of the world's only freshwater seals:
The Saimaa ringed seal (Pusa hispida saimensis) is a subspecies of ringed seal (Pusa hispida). They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 390 individuals. The only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name). They have lived in complete isolation from other ringed seal species for around 9,500 years and have diverged into a morphologically and ecologically different subspecies of ringed seal.

American neo-Nazis reorganizing

As reported in The Guardian:
The year and a half since the Unite the Right far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, ended in mayhem, the death of a protester and political turmoil, has been a rough time for the public facing and ostensibly political arm of the white supremacist movement in America. Those who marched in Charlottesville have to a large degree retreated, fleeing lawsuits, doxxing and personal scandal. Still, while public marches appear to be fewer and fewer, the period since Charlottesville has also been marred by individual episodes of extreme violence, suggesting that the wave of white supremacy that seemed to crest in Charlottesville is not so much receding as just changing in nature...

“It’s clearly gathering steam,” said JM Berger, an expert on extremism and research scholar at Vox-Pol. “Success breeds success, and we’re seeing people operationalize the self-education process. People are beginning to understand that they can emulate the actions of someone who went before them to work out whatever they want to work out.”

This certainty that evil forces are working against Trump has become prevalent within the far right, breeding conspiracies such as QAnon, which posits Trump is fighting a “deep state” conspiracy that seeks to thwart his patriotic agenda. As such, Trump plays a dual role within the world of rightwing violence: while a “sympathetic” administration can spur a rise in violence, the perceived persecution of Trump – in large part an image created by the president himself – can fuel the paranoid and violent fantasies of people like Hasson.

Both ideas can breed violence, especially if Trump is defeated in the 2020 elections...

Coupled with increased frustration by the limitations of political engagement comes the rise of more terroristic groups such as Atomwaffen Division, a militant neo-Nazi group linked to several murders. They and others have brought a less hierarchical and more disorderly structure to white supremacist activism, which makes them both harder to track and to control. Known as “leaderless resistance”, it has been a tactic of white supremacists for decades and lead to events such as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, but has been made exponentially easier by the internet.

“Leaderless resistance totally changes recruitment strategy,” said Belew.

“No longer is the movement trying to generate a mass protest of uniformed members. This movement isn’t interested in a crowd but in a dedicated cell of 12 people that are going to devote their lives to guerrilla warfare.”..

What remains an almost certainty is that Hasson is not alone in his desire to commit atrocities for white supremacist objectives. Others are still out there: armed, dangerous and plotting. Some will likely turn their thoughts into actions.

“My guess is that there are thousands like him,” said Belew. “These people are ideologically connected and preparing similar acts of violence.”
More at the link, if you want to totally ruin your day.

Teacher goes the extra mile

To foster a love of reading, elementary educators tell their students to read a book at night, or have someone read to them. One principal in Texas has made it personal: She snuggles into a pair of pajamas and reads to her students herself.

“I don’t know if they are read to or not at home,” said Belinda George, 42, a first-year principal at Homer Drive Elementary in Beaumont, in Southeast Texas.

George, often in a cozy onesie, opens Facebook Live on her phone each Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. As she reads a children’s book in her living room, anyone who goes to the school’s Facebook page can watch live. She calls it “Tucked-in Tuesdays,” and it’s become somewhat of a sensation at her school...

George said 94 percent of her students come from economically disadvantaged homes, and last year’s literacy tests showed that an average of just 55 percent of her third-, fourth- and fifth-graders were reading on or above grade level.

"... there are some juveniles involved in the fatality situation..."

I heard that phrase while listening this morning to television coverage of the outbreak of tornados in Alabama.  Public officials often revert to a special cant when speaking publicly, and I fully understand that for law enforcement officials in particular there are legal constraints on what they can say and how they phrase their announcements.

But this one seems particularly convoluted.  "Some juveniles involved in the fatality situation" translates to "some children/juveniles* died" or "some children were killed."   Why can't the statement be offered in the simpler form?  Is it considered too harsh for the ears of the public?

I'm not trying to be coy or sassy here - just don't understand if "being involved in a fatality situation" is standard for some reason, or was this just one person's concoction?

* apparently a child is defined as under age 14, and a juvenile as age 14-17

01 March 2019

"Overton window" explained

The Overton window is the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse, also known as the window of discourse. The term is named after political scientist Joseph P. Overton, who claimed that an idea's political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within a range acceptable to the public, rather than on politicians' individual preferences. According to Overton, the window contains the range of policies that a politician can recommend without appearing too extreme to gain or keep public office in the current climate of public opinion...

The Overton window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democracy's possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to convince or persuade the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable.  [cf also Hallin's spheres]
I had to look up the term (it was unfamiliar to me), because it was featured in a Rolling Stone interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Herewith some excerpts:
But do you court the controversy? Are you trying to engage in a dialogue where you are going toe-to-toe with Trump?I do think that we’ve been taking it too much. I think we’ve been tolerating the intolerable. And I remember, you know, just being a constituent, like, “Where’s the fight back on some of these issues?” What the president is trying to do is undermine truth itself. Just because I’m pushing back on reporters calling women unlikable doesn’t mean that I think their outlet itself is “fake.” There’s a huge difference between checking a narrative and checking an actual institution. That’s how you get climate deniers being treated just as seriously as venerable scientists.

Would you vote to impeach Trump?Yeah. No question. No question. I don’t even know why it’s controversial. I mean, OK, it’s not that I don’t know why it’s controversial. I understand that some people come from very tough districts where their constituents are torn. But for me and my community in the Bronx and Queens, it’s easy.

You have only been here about a week or so, but have you had any conversations with Republicans about why they stick by him?Well, in the Republican Party, there’s a hostage situation going on. There are a lot of Republicans that know what the right thing to do is — not just on impeachment but on a wide range of issues — and they refuse to speak up.

Because it would be political suicide.Because to them, yeah, they can’t do it. To me, it’s an unacceptable position, because we’re not in the realm of politics anymore. These are not questions of politics. These are questions of society. These are questions of equal treatment. These are questions of civil rights.

Wouldn’t you rather have Republicans in office who know what the right thing is behind closed doors versus those people speaking up and losing their seats to people who are truly in agreement with Trump?The problem is that if they vote the same way, what does it matter? I don’t care what’s in your heart if how you are voting is the same as someone who is actually racist. At the end of the day, they think that their intentions are gonna save them, but the actual decisions you make matter. I am tired of people saying, “I’m gonna vote the same way as bigots, but I don’t share the ideology of bigots.” Well, you share the action and the agenda of bigots. We need to hold that accountable.

How much of what you’re talking about is trying to move the Overton window [the range of ideas accepted in public discourse] so that Democrats can compete with the way Republicans have moved it?A huge part of my agenda is to move the Overton window, because it’s a strategic position. I’m a first-term freshman in an institution that works by seniority. Procedurally, it is kind of like high school. You’re the new kid on the block. So, as a freshman, you have to look at the tools available to you, and in my first term, if we have the opportunity to frame the debate, then that is one of the ways to have the most power. If I’m here for four days, then the most powerful thing I can do is to create a national debate on marginal tax rates on the rich.

Do you worry that [Pelosi]’s been in politics so long that she will be too quick to compromise?I do think that as a party we compromise too much. I don’t think it’s necessarily all on her, because she can only push as much as she can coalition-build. That’s why I see a special responsibility in my role in kind of shifting the conversation, so that all the members feel a little bit more pressure, because we’re amplifying what voters already feel. I was running in a district that was deep blue, and the representation that we were getting was not as progressive as the actual electorate. When [congresspeople] start feeling more of that conversation coming from their districts, they’ll have more liberty to move, which will then give the speaker more liberty to compromise less and push harder. Especially when it comes to the environment, but also on a wide range of issues.

Do you worry about splintering the party, this idea that you’re not just trolling Republicans, you’re also trolling Democrats? You’re doing all kinds of trolling! [Laughs]Well, I don’t worry about splintering the party, but as I’ve said in the past, we can’t just be a party of the most basic rights. It shouldn’t be a political statement to say we should all be treated equally. The fact that that is partisan upsets me. I believe that both parties need to be on the same page when it comes to racial justice, queer rights, marriage equality, all of it. These should not be partisan issues, they should be universal rights. And so we need to champion those things, but we need to go a lot further. Especially when it comes to expanding our rights to economic dignity.

What do you think you know that the old guard doesn’t?One of the things that I bring to the table is a visceral understanding that people under 40 have been shaped by an entirely different set of events. We’ve literally grown up in different Americas. They were shaped by a Cold War America, a post-World War II America; and we are an Iraq War America, a 9/11 America, a hyper-capitalism-has-never-worked-for-us, Great Recession America. People are used to talking about millennials as if we’re teenagers. We’re in our thirties now. We’re raising kids and getting married and having families, and we have mortgages and student-loan debt. It’s important that [Congress is] in touch. People tend to interpret this as me railing against older people and being ageist. But that’s not what this is about. It’s a problem of representation. We don’t have enough intergenerational representation. We largely have one generation. That’s not to say that one generation should be out of power, it’s that others should be here as well.

Do you still have student-loan debt?Of course I do, yeah! I’m 29 years old.

Do you worry that in pushing the Democratic Party more left, you’re only going to polarize the country more?I think it’s wrong to say that what I’m proposing is polarizing the country. What we are seeing now is a ruling class of corporations and a very small elite that have captured government. The Koch brothers own every Republican in the Senate. They own ’em. They don’t cast a vote unless their sugar daddies tell ’em what to do. But 70 percent of Americans believe in Medicare for all. Ninety percent of Americans believe we need to get money out of politics. Eighty-something [percent] believe that climate change is a real, systemic and urgent problem. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe that immigrants are a positive force in the United States of America. I believe that I’m fighting for the American consensus.
Via Boing-Boing, which described her as "tearing the Overton window out of its frame."

The more I read about this lady the more I like her.  I found this in a HuffPost column yesterday:
One advantage Ocasio-Cortez has over some colleagues is that she consistently attends even the most mundane committee hearings, since she does not spend any of her day calling donors for money. Her online presence is strong enough that she has chosen to rely on it exclusively to raise contributions in smaller increments.
I realize the readership of TYWKIWDBI is diverse (and worldwide, often not interested in U.S. politics), so I think it's only fair that I start treating AOC the way I do Trump - sequestering the bulk (tho not all) of relevant posts to intermittent clusters that can be browsed by those interested, and ignored by those opposed.  I have posted a half-dozen Trump Clumps.  So now I'll start aggregating the AOC material into "AOC potpourris."  And Bernie Sanders too (if I can come up with a good term for those clusters...)

Another source for Shakespeare's writing

As reported by the New York Times:
For years scholars have debated what inspired William Shakespeare’s writings. Now, with the help of software typically used by professors to nab cheating students, two writers have discovered an unpublished manuscript they believe the Bard of Avon consulted to write “King Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Richard III,” “Henry V” and seven other plays.

The news has caused Shakespeareans to sit up and take notice. “If it proves to be what they say it is, it is a once-in-a-generation — or several generations — find,” said Michael Witmore, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

The findings were made by Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter, who describe them in a book to be published next week by the academic press D. S. Brewer and the British Library. The authors are not suggesting that Shakespeare plagiarized but rather that he read and was inspired by a manuscript titled “A Brief Discourse of Rebellion and Rebels,” written in the late 1500s by George North, a minor figure in the court of Queen Elizabeth, who served as an ambassador to Sweden...

The book contends that Shakespeare not only uses the same words as North, but often uses them in scenes about similar themes, and even the same historical characters. In another passage, North uses six terms for dogs, from the noble mastiff to the lowly cur and “trundle-tail,” to argue that just as dogs exist in a natural hierarchy, so do humans. Shakespeare uses essentially the same list of dogs to make similar points in “King Lear” and “Macbeth.”..

In 1576, North was living at Kirtling Hall near Cambridge, England, the estate of Baron Roger North. It was here, Mr. McCarthy says, that he wrote his manuscript, at the same time Thomas North was there possibly working on his translation of Plutarch.

The manuscript is a diatribe against rebels, arguing that all rebellions against a monarch are unjust and doomed to fail. While Shakespeare had a more ambiguous position on rebellion, Mr. McCarthy said he clearly mined North’s treatise for themes and characters.
I think it's essential to note that George North's writings were not published and thus would not have been available to Shakespeare from a public library.  This was a handwritten manuscript

kept in an aristocratic household of someone in Queen Elizabeth's court.  It's hard to imagine the manuscript getting into the hands of a Stratfordian son of a glovemaker and farmer's daughter.  It would not, however, have been inaccessible to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

"No rational person would do this" to an apartment door

I could have saved this for two weeks from now, but I'm planning a blogcation then.  Via the funny subreddit.

70-car accident on Iowa interstate highway

This past week there was a 130-vehicle accident here in Wisconsin.  Same conditions -  whiteout weather from snow and/or windy "ground blizzard," plus idiotic driving.

Note that just pulling the car onto the shoulder was not a satisfactory escape mechanism for drivers encountering the pileup.  Some drivers fled on foot as far as possible.

The video is 14 minutes in duration, but not much substantive happens after the first 6:00.

28 February 2019

A tip for used-book buyers

I recently decided just for fun to browse a group of books about Edward Gorey, and discovered that in addition to the books written and illustrated by him, there are lots of books by other authors for which he designed the cover.  One writer noted that Gorey enthusiasts like to prowl used-book stores looking for the ones for which he provided illustrations or covers.

So my next step was to get this book from our library:

It turns out there are an abundance of such books, some with "instantly-recognizable Gorey" covers, but more with images that are stylistically related and recognizable, once you familiarize yourself with his work.

There are way too many book covers for me to even attempt embedding here.  The one at the top of this post struck my eye, because it was the cover of a textbook I was assigned to read for my first course in American Literature in college in the 1960s.  Sadly, I recycled that book decades ago, but the cover was unforgettable.

Might this knowledge be useful in some pecuniary way?  Apparently so.  I searched eBay for "Gorey cover" in the "books" section and saw some offered at ridiculous prices.  Then I clicked on "sold" and was surprised to see some of the prices realized.  In my experience, selling books on eBay is largely a futile effort because to sell your precious coffee-table art book you have to compete with sellers offering the same for $3 plus free shipping.

But these Gorey-illustrated books might be worth looking for.  If you can't locate the book shown above, browse this page of results of a Google Image search for "Gorey covers" to familiarize yourself with what to look for.

Additional information from an old Guardian article:
Yet, understandably, less attention is devoted today to the 200-plus illustrated paperback covers and hardcover jackets that Chicago-born, Harvard-educated Gorey (known to his friends as Ted) created while working as a staff artist, art director, editor and freelance illustrator at various American publishing houses for a large portion of his career. In two brief sentences, his obituary tossed aside this impressive output: “After graduation he remained in Boston, illustrating book jackets. Then he went to New York and worked in the art department at Doubleday, staying late in the office to create his own books.”...

Gorey’s covers and jackets were not done anonymously or as mere throwaways, as many others were. Nor was this a strategic compromise until he found and embraced his true calling. Today, this body of work exemplifies his unique contribution to a truly exceptional era of graphic design when book covers and jackets became an innovative genre honoured by exhibitions and awards.
The correspondence of Edward Gorey
The bizarre humor of Edward Gorey
Selections from "Gashlycrumb Tinies" - updated

27 February 2019

Eagle tracked for 20 years

Apparently a Steppe Eagle.  Via the MapPorn subreddit.

Atlantic salmon, farmed in Wisconsin

"[Just] up the hill from an abandoned schoolhouse in the rolling hills of west central Wisconsin about 33 miles southeast of Eau Claire, 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of salmon are harvested each week and 1.5 million pounds of leafy greens each year. And it’s all being sold to grocers, restaurants and wholesalers within a 400-mile radius of Jackson County...

A 3-acre greenhouse, nearly twice the length of a football field, glows purple from its more than 1,100 LED grow lights — a sight that turns the heads of passing motorists on Interstate 94 at night. The lights, with cloud-based software, help mimic California’s Salinas Valley.

Next door, the North Atlantic Ocean is replicated in a one-acre fish house. Thousands of Atlantic salmon, some newly hatched from eggs sourced in Iceland, others nearly 10 pounds after two years, are raised in 22,000-gallon tanks filled with fresh water drawn from a 180-foot-deep well...

With millions of dollars in financial backing from Todd Wanek, the CEO of Ashley Furniture, and his wife, Karen, this is where a team of experts schooled in the minutiae of aquaculture and hydroponics uses water from the fish rearing process to grow vegetables year round on floating mats. It’s all certified organic with no pesticides, growth hormones or other additives."
"Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Water in which fish are raised is then used to fill greenhouse tanks to grow plants. The fish waste provides nutrients for the plants, and the water recirculates between the tanks...

Salmon are raised in water that is about 39 degrees. The nutrient-rich water is then pumped to the neighboring greenhouse where the water is allowed to warm naturally to around 75 degrees and can be used to grow baby red leaf lettuce from seed to harvest in 18 to 24 days...

Like hydroponics, aquaponics systems require less land and water than conventional crop production methods, increase growth rates and allow for year-round production... The projects, which use no surface water and emphasize cleanliness including bio-security measures to prevent contamination of crops, are designed to decrease transportation costs and provide locally sourced food...
The Superior Fresh system, which includes about 850,000 gallons of water in the greenhouse, has interior and exterior weather stations that talk to each other and open and close roof vents to help regulate temperatures. On a recent day, with temperatures outside in the mid-20s, the greenhouse temperature was 76 degrees. During the polar vortex, interior temperatures dropped to the upper 50s..."
More details and pix at the Wisconsin State Journal.

Immense courage. North Carolina, 1956.

Dorothy Counts, whose nickname was Dot, was dropped off on her first day of school by her father Herman Count along with their family friend Edwin Thompkins. As their car was blocked from going closer to the front entrance, Edwin offered to escort Counts to the front of the school while her father parked the car. As Counts got out of the car to head down the hill, her father told her, "Hold your head high." The harassment started when the wife of John Z. Warlick, an officer of the White Citizens Council, urged the boys to "keep her out" and at the same time, implored the girls to spit on her, saying, "spit on her, girls, spit on her."

Another video of falling dominoes

This one shows some truly innovative variations.

One small request to makers of videos like this.  Listening to the sound of falling dominos is interesting and relaxing.  If you feel compelled for some odd reason to add in a musical accompaniment, please choose one that doesn't repeat itself every 15 effing seconds.  Thank you.

Via Neatorama.

How much snow can the roof of your home tolerate?

This extraordinary winter has created much anxiety among homeowners worried about whether their roof can withstand the weight of the snow.  When should you worry?  I had to look it up, and found the answer in Reuben Saltzman's excellent Home Inspector column at the StarTribune (I highly recommend that homeowners bookmark and browse his home inspection blog).

For southern Minnesota, the building code stipulates load-bearing of snow by the roof of 35 pounds per square foot.  But... as anyone who has ever shoveled snow understands, there is a world of difference between light fluffy snow that falls when temps are near zero and the heavy wet snow that falls when the temps are closer to freezing.  The table embedded above sorts this out,

Water weighs 62 pounds/cubic foot, ice just a little less.  Heavy and light snow are shown in the first two columns (from 1/3 the weight of water to 1/20th); this is obviously a continuum, but the two numbers shown are useful to make the point.

The bottom part of the chart translates the numbers into snow depth.  If a roof was built to withstand 20 pounds per square foot, it would be at risk with a foot of heavy wet snow, but can handle over 6 feet of light dry snow.

It gets more complicated, because as snow remains on a roof, it becomes progressively more compact, and note that the tolerance for ice is way less than for snow.

In point of fact, residential roofs rarely collapse from snow.  But here in Wisconsin this week there have been reports of barn roofs and outbuilding roofs on farms collapsing, because building standards for those structures are less rigorous.

And a bigger problem than roof collapse is water penetration from ice dams.

This is a "duck"

The photo shows the Kamil Gulec Library in Turkey - its exterior designed to resemble a shelf of books (there is a similarly-designed library in Kansas City, Missouri).

Today I learned that there is a term for this sort of contrivance -
"Robert Venturi coined the term. He saw a building, literally in the shape and appearance of a Duck and coined the term from there. Buildings that are intended to look like 'things' are therefore referred to as 'Ducks'."
The Longaberger office building comes immediately to mind.  There must be many others.

25 February 2019

Future warfare is here. Kamikaze drones are real.

As reported by the Washington Post:
ABU DHABI — The Russian company that gave the world the iconic AK-47 assault rifle has unveiled a suicide drone that may similarly revolutionize war by making sophisticated drone warfare technology widely and cheaply available.

The Kalashnikov Group put a model of its miniature exploding drone on display this week at a major defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, where the world’s arms companies gather every two years to show off and market their latest wares...

The KUB is four feet wide, can fly for 30 minutes at a speed of 80 mph and carries six pounds of explosives, the news release says. That makes it roughly the size of a coffee table that can be guided to explode on a target 40 miles away — the equivalent of a “small, slow and presumably inexpensive cruise missile,” according to a report by the National Interest website...

“I think of it as democratizing smart bombs,” he said “It means disseminating smart bombs more widely. This would shrink the gap between the most advanced militaries and the smaller ones.”

Suicide drones are not new. The Islamic State pioneered the art of attaching explosives to commercially available drones and detonating them on advancing troops and enemy bases during the battles for the cities of Mosul and Raqqa in Iraq and Syria.

The U.S. and Israeli militaries have incorporated suicide drones into their arsenals — but controls on the export of technology mean the devices aren’t shared outside a small circle of close allies.

The KUB drone will be faster and more accurate, and will deliver twice the explosive charge and have a greater range than any of the crude homemade devices that have been patched together by terrorists, according to the Kalashnikov representatives at the exhibition.
More at the link.  Image cropped for emphasis from the original.

These are not autonomous.  That may come later...

Tree vs avalanche

The avalanche wins the first round.  Via.

Gray pareidolia



The trend of Americans' incomes

I think the chart above helps to resolve the debate. It shows that both sides have a point — but that it’s a mistake to divide the country into only two groups. To make grand pronouncements about the American economy, you need to talk about three groups.

The first is indeed the top 1 percent of earners, and especially the very richest. Their post-tax incomes (and wealth) have surged since 1980, rising at a much faster rate than economic growth. They are now capturing an even greater share of the economy’s bounty.

Then there are the bottom 90 percent of households, who are in the opposite position. The numbers here take into account taxes and government transfers, like Social Security, financial aid and anti-poverty benefits. Even so, the incomes of the bottom 90 percent have trailed G.D.P. Over time, their share of the economy’s bounty has shrunk.

Finally, there is the upper middle class, defined here as the 90th to 99th percentiles of the income distribution (making roughly $120,000 to $425,000 a year after tax). Their income path doesn’t look like that of either the first or second group. It’s not above the line or below it. It’s almost directly on top of it. Since 1980, the incomes of the upper middle class have been growing at almost the identical rate as the economy.

"Who by fire?"

YouTube link.

Last night I watched American Animals, a sort of true-crime docudrama about four inept students who try to steal rare books from a university library.  I'm not going to review the movie, but I did want to feature the bit of soundtrack in the clip embedded above.

This was the penultimate song, accompanying the apprehension of the students by teams of FBI agents.  As I watched the movie, this song sounded medieval, like a chant by monks or witches.  It was unfamiliar to me, and I had to search the lyrics online:
And who by fire, who by water
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial
Who in your merry merry month of May, who by very slow decay
And who shall I say is calling?

And who in her lonely slip, who by barbiturate
Who in these realms of love, who by something blunt
And who by avalanche, who by powder
Who for his greed, who for his hunger
And who shall I say is calling?

And who by brave assent, who by accident
Who in solitude, who in this mirror
Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand
Who in mortal chains, who in power
And who shall I say is calling?
The song is by Leonard Cohen, who explained it as follows:
"The melody on which this next song is based I first heard when I was four or five years old, in the synagogue, on the Day of Atonement, standing beside my tall uncles in their black suits. It¹s a liturgical prayer that talks about the way in which you can quit this vale of tears. It’s according to a tradition, an ancient tradition that on a certain day of the year, the Book of Life is opened, and in it is inscribed the names of all those who will live and all those who will die, who by fire, who by water…"

24 February 2019

"Pyt" is my new favorite word

Just like ‘hygge’, ‘pyt’ does not have a direct English translation. Some interpretations include ‘never mind’, ‘don’t worry’ or ‘forget about it’ – but these expressions don’t convey the positive aspect of the word. ‘Pyt’ is used to express that you accept a situation is out of your control, and even though you might be annoyed or frustrated, you decide not to waste unnecessary energy on thinking more about it. You accept it and move on. ‘Pyt’ is also used to comfort other people and diffuse unfortunate situations.

‘Pyt’ is so beloved by Danes that in September 2018 it was chosen as the nation’s favourite word in a competition held by the Danish Library Association during the country’s annual ‘Library Week’...

“Pyt is one of my favourite words; it’s the most positive sound I have ever heard. And it has an enormous power when it comes to letting go of things we can’t change. There is so much relief in that word.”

The power of the word has been harnessed in other ways, too. It’s passed down to children at kindergarten and primary school through the introduction of a ‘pyt’ button. This is usually just a plastic lid with ‘PYT’ written on it, glued to a piece of cardboard and placed somewhere centrally in the classroom, to be used in situations where children feel upset about not coming first in a race or winning a game. Essentially, they learn from an early age that losing is OK, as this is also part of real life.

Charlotte Sørensen, a head teacher at Søndervangskolen in the town of Hammel, Jutland, told me: “The ‘pyt’ button is genius. It doesn’t work for all children, but for some of them, it’s great. The action of pressing a physical button seems to help them clear their minds and move on.”
I needed a new word to help cope with arguably the most unpleasant winter I've ever experienced.  Had to rake my roof for a record 4th time, repeatedly salt the driveway and chop ice from the walkways and deck.  Yesterday we had freezing rain followed by rain followed by freezing rain followed by snow, and now that all that is frozen up, temps are forecast to remain below freezing for the next week even in midday.  Winds 40-50 mph today, so I'm not eager to go out to the mailbox, where when I shovel the packed snow the road plows leave in the driveway, I have to lift it to shoulder-height.  PYT!!!

The tooth of a Great White Shark...

... is the one on the RIGHT.  The one on the left is from a megalodonVia.

When you don't know you're poor

Via the Wholesomememes subreddit, where there is a discussion thread.

Sinkhole epidemic in Turkey

Karst formation underneath.  Water harvested for intensive farming.  Details and a photo gallery here.

Farming sunlight

Across the flatlands of Illinois, a new crop is rising among the traditional waves of grain... Hundreds have applied to host acres of solar panels on their property, a move encouraged by a state law requiring that renewable resources provide 25 percent of Illinois power by 2025.

The shift is controversial, and not just because of how it could alter the pastoral landscape. Taking some of the most fertile soil in the world out of production could have serious consequences for a booming population.

Yet farmers point to the uncertain economics of their lives and the need to have other income. Prices last year for the state’s most prominent crops were far below original projections, with University of Illinois data showing corn 7 percent lower and soybeans 15 percent lower. The Trump administration’s trade war with China triggered the steep drop in soybean prices.

Climate change is also spurring some farmers to rent acreage for solar panels, as a way to help combat global warming. “I like to believe I’ve done a small part in trying to slow that process down,” DeBaillie said...

Proposals for midsize projects have become so popular that Illinois is hosting a lottery to determine who will be awarded contracts to sell solar electricity to large power companies in the state, which then delivers it to subscribers.

The state anticipates about 1,000 applications, with many of the proposed projects located on farmland, officials said. About 100 agreements will be issued starting in March.
More information at the Washington Post.
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