08 September 2019

Blogcation begins now

Back in a week or two.  In the meantime, consider browsing the "Archive" in the right sidebar.

Divertimento #168

89 gifs to keep you busy while I go on vacation

Everyone knows how satisfying this isAnd this (poppy seeds).
Backyard rollercoaster
Downhill go cart track in New Zealand
Traditional soap production in Palestine
Mushrooms being harvested
A mashup of the phrase "go f--- youself" in movies and TV
Mother's reflexes save child from serious fall
Escalator eats a person (safe to watch)
Man headbutts someone, gets instant karma
Animated 20-year history of internet browser usage
Woman giving birth in a Denver jail cell (warning)
Woman driver (discussion thread)

Nature and Science
Tourist goes head over heels for Yellowstone bison
How the planets circle a moving sun
How to boil water at room temperature in a parking ramp
Mudslide coming!!
Adjusting mesh stockings
Friendship ring
Why you shouldn't kayak too close to cliffs 
Anemone escapes from a starfish
Microburst of rain 
Clean a seashell with hydrochloric acid.
Baby born with a caul
Cracking open some obsidian
Eye of hurricane Dorian
A reminder that bullets can bounce off water
Parasitoid emerges from a mantis

Pedicure of a horse.
Feeding a Nautilus.
Goose drowns a gull
Parrot evicts an intruder 
Shade-seeking lizard 
How maggots jump without legs 
Alligator climbs a chain-link fence
Shadow of a millipede
Snake climbs a rope
Baby goat headbutts dog
Mistreated rescue bird loves his new owner (discussion)
Polar bear channels his inner narwhal
Who knew that armadillos love toys?

Sports and athleticism
Bowler converts her spare
Two-person cartwheel
Interactive gym wall 
Caught in the act of blood-doping
Pole vault

Idiot decides to slap a horse's ass
Bringing pizza home 
She didn't need that last beer 
Chainsaw kickback 
Car driver tries to bash cyclist
Hotel room shower head
Idiot driver

Impressive or clever
Interesting door mechanism
Lots of interesting ways to fold a dinner napkin
How to julienne a potato 
Spray-painting two images onto bowls
Scythe with a basket 
Walleye captures a muskie 
Flip-flop winch (see this video for explanation)
Woman catches a catfish
Anjihan Grand Canyon
Carving styrofoam
Polymer clay art
Screws turned inside wood using magnetic drill
Speed chess 
Clever way to move a concrete slab
Art using staples
Party trick I'd like to learn
Street performer
Convertible bicycle
Making a culinary sugar dome.  Also a mirror glaze on a cake.
Art restoration (note this person has a channel of videos)
To repair a hole in jeans

Cheerful or funny
Dad gives his daughter a surprise gift
Man can't find his phone 
Filmed in a "typical British pub"
Infant's first glasses
Dog helps his human
Girl asserts dominance over her sibling(s)
A couple propose to each other at the same time
Making children happy 
Father gets a pretend vaccination
Dog returned to his owner
Girl with knife at carnival ride 
Shower trick
Dogs happy to return home
There are two types of dogs...

Today's embedded images come from a Flickr gallery entitled Roadside America. "Take a journey along U.S. main streets, byways, and highways through photographs taken by John Margolies between 1969 and 2008. We’ll be continuously adding images from the Margolies archive of more than 11,000 color slides."

This teacher thought menstrual periods last one day

Discussion thread at the badwomensanatomy subreddit.

Last Monarchs of the summer

This week our last Monarchs are eclosing and departing (we raised and released probably about 150 of them this summer).  With the cooler weather, some needed an energy boost before taking off.  And we released them from the south side of the house to make their trip to Mexico a little shorter.

Political discourse these days

Owning the liberals by sucking on a plastic straw embedded in a meat patty decorated with an incandescent bulb.

To be fair and balanced, we will admit that liberals pull similar stunts.


Early rock music

"Archaeologist Dr. Jean-Loup Ringot specialized in prehistoric music demonstrates a Lithophone."

Other relevant videos here and here (stalactites).

07 September 2019

Victorian radiator incorporating a plate warmer


Uncommonly persistent spam from deltrino.duckdns.org

My personal email (not the one associated with this blog) has been swamped in recent weeks by a torrent of spammy emails.  Nothing dangerous or ominous as far as I can see.

All of them come from a single source: deltrino.duckdns.org, and for reasons I don't understand my Earthlink system does not allow emails from this source to be flagged as spam.

Obviously my email address got into this company's database.  IIRC, the same thing happened to me many years ago and I was able to escape, but I don't remember how.

Have any readers experienced the same problem?  Can anyone offer a suggested remedy?


Offered without comment.

The Republican party will cancel primaries in several states

Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans.

The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him...

The cancellations stem in part from months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Trump campaign. Aides have worked to ensure total control of the party machinery, installing staunch loyalists at state parties while eliminating potential detractors. The aim, Trump officials have long said, is to smooth the path to the president’s renomination and ensure he doesn’t face the kind of internal opposition that hampered former President George H.W. Bush in his failed 1992 reelection campaign.

Trump aides said they supported the cancellations but stressed that each case was initiated by state party officials.

The shutdowns aren’t without precedent. Some of the states forgoing Republican nomination contests have done so during the reelection bids of previous presidents. Arizona, GOP officials there recalled, did not hold a Democratic presidential primary in 2012, when Barack Obama was seeking a second term, or in 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for reelection. Kansas did not have a Democratic primary in 1996, and Republican officials in the state pointed out that they have long chosen to forgo primaries during a sitting incumbent’s reelection year. 
More at Politico.

The treasures of Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and the Tamil style (kovil) of architecture associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century Gopuram... The principal deity Vishnu is enshrined in the "Anantha Shayanam" posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan.

The Temple has been referred to in the (only recorded) Sangam Period of literature between 500 BCE and 300 CE several times. Many conventional historians and scholars are of the opinion that one of the names that the Temple had - "The Golden Temple" - literally was in cognizance of the fact that the Temple was already unimaginably wealthy by that point. Many extant pieces of Sangam Tamil literature and poetry, and even the later works of Ninth Century Tamil poet-saints like Nammalwar, refer to the Temple and even the city as having walls of pure gold. At some places, both the Temple and the entire city are often eulogized even as being made of gold, and the Temple as Heaven

While vault B remains unopened, vaults A, C, D, E and F were opened along with some of their antechambers. Among the reported findings, are a three-and-a-half feet tall solid pure golden idol of Mahavishnu, studded with hundreds of diamonds and rubies and other precious stones. Also found were an 18-foot-long pure gold chain, a gold sheaf weighing 500 kg (1,100 lb), a 36 kg (79 lb) golden veil, 1200 'Sarappalli' gold coin-chains that are encrusted with precious stones, and several sacks filled with golden artifacts, necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gemstones, and objects made of other precious metals. Ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part gold anki weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb), gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds, and several 18th century Napoleonic era coins were found amongst many other objects. In early 2012, an expert committee had been appointed to investigate these objects, which include lakhs of golden coins of the Roman Empire, that were found in Kottayam, in Kannur District. According to Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller-and-Auditor-General(CAG) of India, who had audited some of the Temple records from 1990, in August 2014, in the already opened vault A, there is an 800 kg (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating to around 200 BCE, each coin priced at over 2.7 crore (US$390,000). Also found was a pure Golden Throne, studded with hundreds of diamonds and other fully precious stones, meant for the 18-foot-long Deity. As per one of the men, who was among those that went inside this Vault A, several of the largest diamonds were as large as a full-grown man's thumb. According to varying reports, at least three, if not more, of solid gold crowns have been found, studded with diamonds and other precious stones. Some other media reports also mention hundreds of pure gold chairs, thousands of gold pots and jars, among the articles recovered from Vault A and its antechambers.

This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple as the wealthiest place of worship in the world. It is conservatively estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to 1.2 lakh crore or 1.2 trillion (US$17 billion). If the antique and cultural value were taken into account these assets could be worth ten times the current market price
More at the link. Photo cropped for size and adjusted for exposure and contrast from the original.

"Regrets, I've had a few..."

The photo above reminded of one regret.  In the 1960s I owned a small parcel of land (a couple acres) in northern Minnesota.  Not lakeshore, nothing special - some trees and a meadow.  At the time I considered planting a tree farm.  Seedling trees were available at the time at little or no cost from the Forestry Service.  I knew that hardwood trees like walnut would be a good long-term investment, but I was busy with my career and kept deferring the action.  Decades later I sold the parcel for a pittance.

Those trees would now be about 50 years old.  Not fully mature, but substantial in size (assuming no cowboy loggers found them and stole them).  And they would have monetary value as timber:
Black walnut trees are native to the central and eastern U.S, but also do well in other parts of the country, and are grown for both nuts and timber. A walnut orchard can take a few years to come into full production, but then produces up to 6,000 pounds of nuts per acre. Black walnut logs bring premium prices, and have since the 1700s, with single trees bringing up to $20,000. Bruce Thompson, author of “Black Walnut For Profit,” estimates a mature stand of black walnut trees can bring about $100,000 per acre in timber value alone. The fine, straight-grained wood is used for furniture, veneer and gunstocks.
If you are 50 years younger than me, take a hint...

Re socialized medicine

From the MurderedByWords subreddit, where the discussion thread dismantles the lie that medical care in the United States does not involve a waiting time.

05 September 2019

Leucistic peacock


North Sea cod declining

As reported by The Guardian:
... A report published last month by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices) revealed that North Sea cod stocks had fallen to critical levels. Warning that cod was being harvested unsustainably, it recommended a 63% cut in the catch – and that’s on top of a 47% reduction last year...

North Sea cod stocks were once plentiful but plummeted – and came perilously close to collapse – between the early 1970s and 2006. A “cod recovery plan” sought to restore stocks to sustainable levels by limiting fishing days, decommissioning boats, banning catches in nursery areas and putting larger holes in nets to allow young cod to escape...

Environmental organisations point out that cod has been fished above its maximum sustainable yield in recent years, meaning the fish are taken from the sea faster than they can reproduce.

The species is not breeding as fast as it used to, too many unwanted “juvenile” fish are caught, and the practice of “discarding” – throwing dead fish back into the sea to keep within quotas – continues despite being banned.

With the end of the cod recovery plan, fishing vessels are now entering sites that have not been trawled for more than a decade, causing damage to the ecosystem, they say.

This is a fishery that was on the road to recovery, but failures to reduce fishing pressure have led to serious overfishing and a reversal of fortunes for cod,” said Samuel Stone of the Marine Conservation Society.
The story continues at the link with a history of fish and chips.

Milkweed leaves "trenched" and "skeletonized" - updated

If you're walking past milkweed plants, sometimes you can see a tiny hole in the leaf.  Turn the leaf over, and you may see droplets of the sticky latex sap oozing from the cut area.

In this case, the perpetrator is not present.  This is the feeding pattern of the first generation (first instar) larva of the Monarch butterfly.  The female Monarch lays her egg (typically one to a plant) by grasping the leaf edge with her feet and stretching her abdomen underneath.  When the larva hatches, it begins eating the leaf by cutting that circle, which breaks the flow of latex to the tissue in the center.  The little instar can then continue eating that part of the leaf without being physically overwhelmed by the flow.

Here's one at work.  First they eat the little hairs inside the circle, then they finish the contents of the circle, then (usually as a larger second instar) head out to work on the leaf edge itself.

When we see leaves like the one at the top, it typically means the caterpillar has fallen victim to a bird or to the ants who patrol the plant tending their aphids.

There's one other caterpillar that has evolved to favor the highly toxic milkweed leaves as a food source - the "milkweed tussock moth."

Unlike the monarch cats, these are gregarious creatures, emerging from large clusters of eggs laid by the moth.  They can tolerate the cardiac glycosides in the latex, but also don't want to be overwhelmed by the flow, so while they are little, instead of cutting the vein as the Monarch does, they eat between the veins.  The result looks like this leaf I photographed yesterday -

Totally "skeletonized" but with the arborized veins still intact.  In this case they had moved on to a different leaf; as they get larger they are capable of consuming the entire leaf and defoliating the plant.  Milkweeds have large taproots and tolerate the process quite well, especially because these are late-summer caterpillars and the plant is already in blossom or seed.

Addendum July 30:  Here's what leaves look like that have been consumed by the next generation of tussock moth instars.  It's not as delicate.  The generation after this one is capable of stripping a milkweed right down to the stem.

Reposted from 2011 to add this photo and comments:

The image above shows why we bring Monarch eggs into the house and screen porch.  The milkweed plant in the photo is next to our driveway.  We have never seen a caterpillar on it.  Each of those holes represents a location where a Monarch deposited an egg, the first instar emerged and began feeding, perhaps molted once... and then disappeared.  At our location that probably represents predation (or accidental dislodgement) by ants.  The survival percentage may be higher in more rural locations, but it is still high; consider that a female Monarch can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime, and sustaining the population requires that 2 survive, then do the math.

When we find eggs on milkweed leaves, we pluck the leaf and bring it inside away from predators.  The containers require cleaning and changing, but the cats are quite content to pupate there.

This (September) morning we had a couple eclose; we released them from the south side of the house because they have a long trip to get to Mexico before the weather turns cold (though they can travel a hundred miles in a day).


Some would say 16.  Discussed at Neatorama.

Cannabis etiquette

Now that legalization of cannabis is spreading, it may be appropriate to consider some of the nuances and intricacies of the use of the new products.   Lizzie Post, great-granddaughter of Emily, shares some insights in an article in Vox:
The most important thing is the act of sharing cannabis is at the forefront of the entire community. So if you happen to be in a group of people, and you do have weed, and you are about to light something up, offering to share it with someone is pretty huge. Beyond that, it’s very specific to the different methods, but making sure you’re not holding on to something that is burning, or that you’re wasting weed. Third, not getting rid of something before asking everyone if they’d like the rest of it...

The [reason people take offense to the use of the word "marijuana"] is that in the early 1900s, the term marijuana was purposely used to negatively associate it with the Latino community. That’s painful for a lot of people. Right now, I think we need to be aware of the controversy around it. I personally still call it weed or pot, but when I’m trying to speak publicly, I use the word cannabis...  a lot of growers don’t like the term weed, because the definition of “weed” is an unwanted plant...

Take the issue of smoke. Smoke is not a comfortable thing for everyone to sit in or be around... You don’t pop down with your joint on the beach three feet away from the family having a picnic...

Or let’s say you go to a dinner party, and how many people have been in that awkward position where there’s only two people left in the living room while everyone else has quietly vacated to the back porch? The two people in the living room haven’t been invited to do that, and aren’t aware enough to say, “Can I just come out and talk to you while you do this?” Or as a hostess, to say, “Hey, they’re going outside, but I’m going to stay inside with you.”...
Emily Post has written and published a guidebook on this topic - Higher Etiquette - which I found at our local library.

Via Neatorama.

04 September 2019

Camouflaged spider

Dolophones conifera, known as the Wrap-around spider, is a species of spider in the family Araneidae indigenous to Australia. It is named for its ability to flatten and wrap its body around tree limbs as camouflage. It is found in Western Australia.
It would be a better image (via) if the distracting thingy below the branch were edited out, but I don't have time this morning.  Anyone have a smudging tool and free time?

Update: A tip of the blogging hat to readers mehughes124, Chris Tyrell Loranger, Kris McCusker, and Iain Stuart for sending virtually identical amended and improved images, one of which is now embedded above.

A tree is not a permanent carbon sink

And an old-growth forest is not a net producer of oxygen.

There are lots of excellent reasons to plant trees, but doing so to sequester carbon is a reflection of short-term thinking.  A tree does harvest CO2 from the air and converts it to various organic structures.  If it is a deciduous tree, all the leaves that sequestered carbon for the summer will return that carbon to the environment when the leaves decay in the fall and winter.

The CO2 that was sequestered in cellulose and lignin will be trapped in the wood for a longer period of time, but when that tree dies, the cycle reverses: CO2 is released as the wood decays.  The CO2 sequestration can be prolonged by cutting the tree down while it is alive, using the wood to make furniture for example, and covering the furniture with a layer of lacquer or paint or other preservative.  The ultimate sequestration of course is to bury the dead tree underground and let it turn into coal.

That old-growth forest of towering giant trees is not a net oxygen producer.  The living trees utilize photosynthesis and release O2, but the dead ones on the forest floor are decaying, consuming oxygen as the wood is "burned" back to CO2.  If you want to glorify a trees as an oxygen source, point to a stand of quick-growing "rubbish" trees or a tree farm of new plantings, not the ancient rain forest or the taiga.

I've held this view for a long time, but have seldom expressed it in social settings because the sentiment is so unpopular and frankly a "downer" in conversation, so why bother.   But the recent uproar about Amazonian fires has produced so much hyperbole that the Atlantic boldly posted an article entitled The Amazon is Not Earth's Lungs.  Herewith some excerpts:
The Amazon is a vast, ineffable, vital, living wonder. It does not, however, supply the planet with 20 percent of its oxygen.

As the biochemist Nick Lane wrote in his 2003 book Oxygen, “Even the most foolhardy destruction of world forests could hardly dint our oxygen supply, though in other respects such short-sighted idiocy is an unspeakable tragedy.”

The Amazon produces about 6 percent of the oxygen currently being made by photosynthetic organisms alive on the planet today. But surprisingly, this is not where most of our oxygen comes from. In fact, from a broader Earth-system perspective, in which the biosphere not only creates but also consumes free oxygen, the Amazon’s contribution to our planet’s unusual abundance of the stuff is more or less zero...

That is, Peters wanted to know what would happen to the atmosphere if you burned down not just the Amazon, but every forest on Earth, every blade of grass, every moss and lichen-spackled patch of rock, all the flowers and bees, all the orchids and hummingbirds, all the phytoplankton, zooplankton, whales, starfish, bacteria, giraffes, hyraxes, coatimundis, oarfish, albatrosses, mushrooms, placozoans—all of it, besides the humans.

Peters pulled up the next slide. After this unthinkable planetary immolation, the concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere dropped from 20.9 percent to 20.4 percent. CO2 rose from 400 parts per million to 900—less, even, than it does in the worst-case scenarios for fossil-fuel emissions by 2100. By burning every living thing on Earth.

“Virtually no change,” he said. “Generations of humans would live out their lives, breathing the air around them, probably struggling to find food, but not worried about their next breath.”

On their own, then, trees—and even entire forests and seas of plankton—are not enough to fill the atmosphere with a surplus of oxygen. If 99.99 percent of the vast reservoir of oxygen created by the living world is consumed by the living world, that gets you an atmosphere with 0.01 percent oxygen, not our modern 20.9 percent. Photosynthesis is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a world that is hospitable to white-hot oxygen-burning furnaces like us.

“The notion that we owe the breath we breathe to the rain forest, or the [phytoplankton] off the rain forests’ coasts, is just a little bit misinformed on the long timescale,” says Peters.

You don’t get to 20.9 percent, or an atmosphere that can host animal life, without geologic time, and without the fossil record. The tiny remainder of photosynthetic stuff that isn’t consumed and respired again by life—that 0.01 percent of plants and phytoplankton that manages to escape from this cycle of creation and destruction—is responsible for the existence of complex life on Earth. It’s the organic carbon that, once created, doesn’t get consumed again.
The rest of the article is worth reading in toto.

Addressing inequities

Modding the exhaust sound

Via Just A Car Guy - the best source for posts about things on wheels.


Credit to witenry for skillful execution of an original idea.

03 September 2019

Crazy stupid

When Wisconsin children return to school this week, close to 50,000 of them will have waivers that exempt them from vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to measles at a time when the nation has experienced its largest outbreak in 27 years...

Immunization rates of 92% to 95% are considered necessary to provide what health officials call "herd immunity."... Not a single county in 2018 came close to the 92% threshold. In fact, 40 of the 72 counties had immunization rates below 80%.
From the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel.

02 September 2019

Muir Woods

Posted because this photo brings back memories of one of my most favorite hiking days ever.  About 35-40 years ago I attended a national convention in San Francisco to present a paper.   I then skipped out of the meeting for a day to drive with a couple colleagues up to Marin county to hike these woods and later visit local roadside wine and cheese establishments.

Muir Woods National Monument is flat-out awesome.  I quite agree with a comment at the CozyPlaces via for this image that the best way to appreciate the grandeur is to get away from the paved trail and the attendant tourists and walk back someplace where you can be alone and gaze upward at the trees.

Scientists review disaster movies

The movies reviewed include "San Andres," "2012," "The Day After Tomorrow," "Volcano," "Twister," "Geostorm," "The Core," "Interstellar," "Sharknado," "The Perfect Storm," "Pompeii," "Noah," "The Impossible," "The Happening," "Hard Rain," and "Into the Storm".

Most of them are "unrealistic."  I'm shocked.

Via Vanity Fair.

Fake survey

We've all received these in the mail - "surveys" asking our opinion of political issues, whose only functional purpose is to disguise a fundraising appeal.  I took the screencap above from an online embed at the Los Angeles Times.  I was bemused to note that question 6 asked "On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job... (select as many that [sic] apply)."

I didn't submit my reply, because at the end of the "survey" the participant is required to enter a valid email address - which of course is the entire intent of the instrument.

Matte black nail art

Via the oddlysatisfying subreddit.

"Belling the cat"

"Belling the Cat" is a fable also known under the titles "The Bell and the Cat" and "The Mice in Council". Although often attributed to Aesop, it was not recorded before the Middle Ages...

The fable concerns a group of mice who debate plans to nullify the threat of a marauding cat. One of them proposes placing a bell around its neck, so that they are warned of its approach. The plan is applauded by the others, until one mouse asks who will volunteer to place the bell on the cat. All of them make excuses. The story is used to teach the wisdom of evaluating a plan on not only how desirable the outcome would be but also how it can be executed.
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