20 February 2020


When I saw the photo above of a Westminster Dog Show breed that was unfamiliar to me, I decided that extraordinary neck must signal it as being in the category of "sighthounds."
These dogs specialize in pursuing prey, keeping it in sight, and overpowering it by their great speed and agility. They must be able to detect motion quickly, so they have keen vision. Sighthounds must be able to capture fast, agile prey such as deer and hare, so they have a very flexible back and long legs for a long stride, a deep chest to support an unusually (compared to other dogs) large heart, very efficient lungs for both anaerobic and aerobic sprints, and a lean, wiry body to keep their weight at a minimum. Sighthounds have unique anatomical and physiological features likely due to intentional selection for hunting by speed and sight...

Sighthounds such as the saluki/sloughi type (both named after the Seleucid Empire) may have existed for at least 5,000 years... Although today most sighthounds are kept primarily as pets, some of them may have been bred for as many as thousands of years to detect movement, to chase, capture, and kill prey primarily by speed. They thrive on physical activity. Some have mellow personalities, others are watchful or even hostile towards strangers, but the instinct to chase running animals remains strong. 
The one above is an Azawakh.
The Azawakh, named for the Azawagh Valley of its origin, is what is called a “landrace,” says Carol Beuchat, the Scientific Director of the Institute of Canine Biology. “Landrace” basically means that these populations of specific dogs evolved to function in a precise location. The breed has traveled with nomadic tribes like the Tuareg in modern-day Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso with ancestry for over a thousand years. Archaeologists reportedly were able to find rare 8,000 to 10,000-year-old petroglyph rock art featuring long, slim dogs running alongside their hunter owners.
Look at its remarkable body (image cropped for size):



Addendum: A tip of the blogging cap to reader Rocky, who provided a link to this photo to emphasize that crinoids are not extinct -

Small town, USA. 1943

Part of a newspaper page I found in our family memorabilia.  Dodge County, Minnesota encompasses the area around Rochester.  This type of reporting was standard fare around the country in this era - a tabulation of the seemingly mundane activities of everyone's neighbors.  (If you want to read the details, right-click on the image and then enlarge it).

"Free" tablets for prisoners aren't free

As reported by the Appalachian Prison Book Project:
As a result of a new contract between Global Tel Link (GTL) and the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR), you might think people incarcerated in West Virginia prisons could use the “free” GTL tablets to download a “free” copy of 1984 and journey from “It was a bright cold day in April” to “He loved Big Brother.”

But people in WV prisons will be charged 5 cents/minute to access much of the tablet’s content. For now, a promotional discount brings the cost of reading e-books down to 3 cents/minute. Either way, it’s no way to read.

The books on the tablet come entirely from Project Gutenberg’s free online library. Most of the books we receive requests for at APBP—how-to guides (carpentry, starting a business, repairing small engines, etc.), contemporary fiction, popular mysteries and sci-fi, African American literature, Native studies, recent autobiographies—will not be available.

Since Project Gutenberg archives older texts that have entered the public domain, they do not allow institutions to charge people to download their e-books and audio books. The per-minute tablet usage fees provide a clever way for GTL to profit from people reading “free” books.

Although it looks like the use of their free archives may not violate their trademark, the Chief Executive and Director of Project Gutenberg, Dr. Gregory Newby, finds it “very sad.” In an email to APBP, he wrote that he would be “very pleased if [we] can convince GTL to change their practices.”..

The paperback version of 1984 is about 330 pages. It will take a person who is able to read 30 pages per hour about 11 hours to read the novel. At the discounted $0.03/minute usage fee, 11 hours of reading a free book will cost a person about $19.80—and this is if you don’t stop to think or re-read.
Photo via Book Patrol, which adds:
Oh, and the average wage for a WV prisoner is 30 cents an hour.

Of course, there are layers of censorship too! how-to guides (carpentry, starting a business, repairing small engines, etc.), contemporary fiction, popular mysteries and sci-fi, African American literature, Native studies, recent autobiographies—will not be available.

A blanket octopus shows its web

 Via Laughing Squid.  Here's another video, also via Laughing Squid:

Cinema Pathe (Switzerland)


Now playing in Kansas City: Radio Sputnik

In January, Radio Sputnik, a propaganda arm of the Russian government, started broadcasting on three Kansas City-area radio stations during prime drive times, even sharing one frequency with a station rooted in the city’s historic jazz district...

In the United States, talk radio on Sputnik covers the political spectrum from right to left, but the constant backbeat is that America is damaged goods...

Sputnik’s American hosts follow a standard talk radio format, riffing on the day’s headlines and bantering with guests and callers. They find much to dislike in America, from the reporting on the coronavirus epidemic to the impeachment of President Trump, and they play on internal divisions as well. On a recent show, one host started by saying he was broadcasting “live from Washington, D.C., capital of the divided states of America.”

Critics in Kansas City called Radio Sputnik’s arrival an unabashed exploitation of American values and openness. Those behind the deal defended it as a matter of free speech, as well as a simple business transaction.

Peter Schartel, the owner of Alpine Broadcasting Corporation of Liberty, Mo., the company airing Sputnik in Kansas City, said that he started the broadcasts on Jan. 1 both because he liked what he heard during a trial run last fall and because he was getting paid...

An editorial in The Kansas City Star noted that the free press was a prime target of Mr. Putin’s attempts to weaken public trust in American institutions. “It’s sad, but not astonishing, that an American entrepreneur would put business above patriotism,” the paper wrote. “Listener, beware.”..

In a modern spin on propaganda, it focuses on sowing doubt about Western governments and institutions rather than the old Soviet model of selling Russia as paradise lost.
More at the New York Times.

18 February 2020

"Buffalo chest" and the American bison

This week while browsing the Oxford University Press blog, I encountered the image shown above - a painting (George Catlin, 1844) of a Native American hunter preparing to bring down a bison with a bow and arrow.  The scale of the painting is a bit off, but the activity depicted is well known; the immense and otherwise robust American bison was uniquely susceptible to death from a simple arrow, or even from a penetrating chest wound from a simple lance.

This unusual susceptibility also contributed to the wholesale slaughter of bison herds when Europeans arrived with firearms.  This old photo (via) from the 1870s shows an unbelievably immense pile of bison skulls:

These iconic and magnificent animals were killed in part to provide meat to workers on the transcontinental railroad, in part to prevent large bison herds from interfering with the progress of the trains, and also as part of a concerted effort by settlers to deprive the Native Americans of one of their principal food resources.  Discussion and additional photos at Rare Historical Photos.

But back to the biology.  The "susceptibility" I mentioned earlier arises from the fact that North American bison have a single pleural space in the chest.  Most mammals (humans included) have separate pleural spaces in the left and right chest.  A penetrating injury or rupture of lung tissue will lead to leakage of air (a pneumothorax) and impaired ventilatory function, but is typically not lethal.  When humans have a single pleural space either as a congenital defect or as a result of previous thoracic surgery, they are said to have a "buffalo chest" as shown in this example:

The PA radiograph shows bilateral pneumothoraces, both of which were relieved by the insertion of a chest tube into just one hemithorax (case report at the Journal of Thoracic Disease).

Humor scrapbook, part II

This is the second of what will eventually be ten weekly posts with material from my old "humor" scrapbook.  The content varies from priceless to junky (especially in the case of humor, which often doesn't age well), but there's no time to sort things out or curate the content (which may include material from the 1970s that would be "politically incorrect" nowadays).

The text on "scrapbook" pages can be very difficult to read. One possible workaround is to right-click on a page to open it in a new tab, then zoom the image on that tab.


17 February 2020

A Large Duck orchid (Caleana Major)

Via.  Biology at Wikpedia.

A measuring scale - on a nontransparent bottle

The comments note that not only is the bottle nontransparent, but the scale appears to be in mm for distance, rather than cc for volume.

Via the Crappy Design subreddit, which always has an abundance of cringeworthy examples.

Betelgeuse may be preparing to go supernova

Although it’s far enough away to keep Earth safe from radiation when it goes supernova, red supergiant star Betelgeuse is about 700 times the size of our sun, with a radius roughly equivalent to the orbit of Jupiter. “It would be astounding,” said Andy Howell, an astronomer at the Las Cumbres Observatory and the University of California at Santa Barbara about Betelgeuse’s inevitable explosion.

“No person alive today will have seen anything so glorious as what will happen when Betelgeuse blows up,” says Howell. “You could see it in the daytime, it would cast shadows at night, everyone in the world who could see Orion would be able to see it. It would transform people’s fascination with the night sky.”

“It is inevitable,” Villanova astronomy professor Edward Guinan told NBC MACH, noting that the dimming is caused by the growth of giant dark regions on the star’s surface, similar to sunspots on our own sun. “The star is going to blow up. It has no other choice in physics. I just don’t think it is now. But I’m becoming less and less certain of that.”

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have captured the unprecedented dimming of Betelgeuse (at top of page). The stunning new images of the star’s surface show not only the fading red supergiant but also how its apparent shape is changing.
More at The Daily Galaxy.

A revisionist view of George Washington

A Washington Post article reviews a new biography of our first president:
Consider the cherry tree story — it’s a myth created in 1800 by Washington’s first biographer, Parson Weems.

Also, he could tell a lie, which really came in handy with the masterful spying operation he ran during the Revolutionary War.

And what about those allegedly wooden teeth? Yes, he had horrible teeth, Coe explains, but his dentures weren’t ligneous; they were made of ivory, cow and horse teeth, and sometimes human teeth removed from the people he enslaved. (He would pay them for their teeth, Coe writes, although not at market rate.)..

Coe’s book is peppered with BuzzFeed-like charts and listicles packed with information both humorous and profound. “If history is boring, it’s the historian’s fault,” she said. It has received mostly glowing reviews from readers and other historians, but on Saturday, a Daily Mail story inaccurately claimed Coe called Washington “an illiterate liar who cheated his way to top,” causing a wave of online harassment. Some early reviews have also described the book as “irreverent” — a characterization she takes issue with...

“Every biography has to mention that he owned slaves, of course,” Coe said. “And it is absolutely true to say that he inherited slaves when he was still an adolescent, but it is not true to say that that was the only world that he knew,” or that “he was a man of his times.”  Washington spent time in regions where slavery was taboo or illegal, was pressured by close friends for decades to free the people he enslaved, and complained that he didn’t have the money to pay the required fees to free them, even though he did, Coe found.

16 February 2020

Using explosives to plant fruit trees

(I posted this earlier today under the title "I'm puzzled by this road sign.")

A photo I encountered while digitizing the family memorabilia.  Two unknown-to-me-but-probably-distantly-related young women posing by a roadside sign.  Approximate date based on other photos would be early 1900s.

Don't fail to Plant Your Fruit Trees With
Du Pont Exp__sives
Best (b)y Test

Assuming two letters are obscured by the young lady's hat, the only words I know that would fit are explosives, expensives, and expansives.

As much as I would love to learn that my ancestors planted fruit trees using explosives, I would have to think they were advertising "expansives," but a quick Google search doesn't reveal any such use of the term.

This is totally unimportant, but sometimes readers here have ideas or resources or interpretations that escape me.

Updated:   The puzzle was solved by readers Kara and Bob and Rob from Amersfoort and David and The First and some unknowns:

"Subsoil broken up by blast making easy path for roots."  Progressive farmers are "using dynamite for removing stumps and boulders, planting and cultivating fruit trees, regenerating barren soil, ditching, draining, excavating and road-making.  Write now for Free Booklet - "Tree Planting With Dynamite, No. 290.""
It makes sense (and I wouldn't have minded having a little dynamite when I first hand-tilled our tomato patch out back).  In retrospect the reason I ignored this possibility was that I thought there was no evidence on the sign for the top of a letter "L" behind her hat.  Now I realize her hat had a white peak.

Dynamite for gardening.  You learn something every day.

Addendum:  And here's that Du Pont booklet, located by reader Paul and others.

Cross-section of a hedge

If you've ever run into one, you know they are not as soft as they look from the outside.  Via.

Americans who haven't read a book in the past year

Data from the Pew Research Center:
Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7 [2019]...

The share of Americans who report not reading any books in the past 12 months is higher today than it was nearly a decade ago – though there has been some fluctuation over this time period. Today, 27% of adults say they have not read any books in the past year, up from 19% in 2011, but identical to the share who said this in 2015...

The same demographic traits that characterize non-book readers also often apply to those who have never been to a library. In a 2016 survey, we found that Hispanics, older adults, those living in households earning less than $30,000 and those who have a high school diploma or did not graduate from high school are the most likely to report they have never been to a public library.

Display of decorated bicycles (France, 1898)

Saving rare salamanders

"Thermokarst" explained

Excerpts from a recent article in Wired:
It’s perhaps the best known and more worrisome of climate feedback loops: As the planet warms, permafrost—landscapes of frozen soil and rock—begins to thaw. And when it does, microbes consume organic matter, releasing CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, leading to more warming, more thawing, and even more carbon emissions.

But here’s something you’ve probably never heard of, and it’s something not even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has really considered: thermokarst. That’s the land that gets ravaged whenever permafrost thaws rapidly. As the ice that holds the soil together disappears, hillsides collapse and massive sinkholes open up. Climate scientists have been working gradual permafrost thaw into their models—changes that run centimeters deep over decades or centuries. But abrupt permafrost thaw happens on the scale of meters over months or years. That shocks the surrounding landscape into releasing potentially even more carbon than would have if it thawed at a more leisurely pace...

When these lands thaw, they play host to a number of processes. As ice turns to liquid water, trees flood and die off. Thus more light reaches the soil, further accelerating thawing. This is in contrast to gradual thaw, when the plant community largely stays the same as the ice thaws...

The bad news is, the emissions could be the equivalent of an entire industrialized nation’s greenhouse output. The better news is, it won’t be as much as humanity’s global toll. “Even though these are hot spots of carbon release, it's going to take decades for those hot spots to become large enough to seriously impact the climate system,” says Turetsky. “But this is still something we need to take seriously.”
A related article in the Washington Post reports on the reanimation of life-forms released from melting permafrost:
Researchers in a warming Arctic are discovering organisms, frozen and presumed dead for millennia, that can bear life anew. These ice age zombies range from simple bacteria to multicellular animals, and their endurance is prompting scientists to revise their understanding of what it means to survive...

[Mosses] desiccate when temperatures plummet, sidestepping the potential hazard of ice forming in their tissues. And if parts of the plant do sustain damage, certain cells can divide and differentiate into all the various tissue types that comprise a complete moss, similar to stem cells in human embryos...

She has coaxed million-year-old bacteria back to life on a petri dish. They look “very similar to bacteria you can find in cold environments [today],” she said...

Hulking among the puny bacteria and amoebae were long, segmented worms complete with a head at one end and anus at the other — nematodes. “Of course we were surprised and very excited,” Vishnivetskaya said. Clocking in at a half-millimeter long, the nematodes that wriggled back to life were the most complex creatures Vishnivetskaya — or anyone else — had ever revived after a lengthy deep freeze.
I've lost the link, but I believe there are also concerns about the revival and dispersal of ice-age viruses.

Previously: Maybe it should be called "tempafrost" maps the locations of permafrost in Alaska.

14 February 2020

Humor for English majors

Queen Elizabeth was visiting sick children in a Scottish hospital, and after performing her planned duties, she wandered off to other parts of the hospital. Walking into an unidentified ward, she went up to a patient in bed and asked him how he was doing. He replied:
"O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly played in tune....."
Finding the response somewhat inappropriate she wished him good day and moved down the ward to a room where another man was sitting quietly. In response to her inquiry, he began singing:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min' ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?"
Somewhat baffled by this sequence of events she found a third room, where her greeting was met with:
"Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie ...."
She gave up, and left the ward. On her way out, she encountered the head nurse. "Is this the psychiatric ward?" she asked.

"No, your majesty," the nurse replied. "It's......the Burns unit."
Reposted from 10 years ago so I could end the blogging day on a lighter note.

The old Cincinnati library

The building was demolished in the 1950s.  One comment in the discussion thread noted that the reason for this open vertically-stacked shelving array was that the old library had been repurposed from an even older opera house.

Social media medicine: Potato necklace. Egg in a sock. Potato in a sock.

Three examples I encountered in recent weeks of insane medical advice offered (and taken) over social media.  

In the top example 27,000 people "liked" the observation that pieces of potato in a string around a child's neck were turning black not because of oxidation, but because they were "drawing the fever out of the child." 

In the second example a raw egg in a sock nailed above the door of a child's room provided relief to teething problems.

And finally, potatoes in a child's socks failed to prevent death from influenza.

One has to wonder how many of these bits of advice are not innocent passing of folklore, but malicious disinformation purposely promulgated by sociopaths.

Want a cough drop in the hospital? That will be $10

I could spend all day blogging endless examples of the dystopia of the modern American medical care delivery system  (not the people... just the processes involved).

The cough drop example comes from a Reddit post where the discussion thread includes a lot of ranting but also some informed perspectives on why such things happen.

An interesting essay on the history of the family

Excerpts from a longread at The Atlantic:
If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.

This article is about that process, and the devastation it has wrought—and about how Americans are now groping to build new kinds of family and find better ways to live...

Through the early parts of American history, most people lived in what, by today’s standards, were big, sprawling households. In 1800, three-quarters of American workers were farmers. Most of the other quarter worked in small family businesses, like dry-goods stores. People needed a lot of labor to run these enterprises. It was not uncommon for married couples to have seven or eight children...

Extended families have two great strengths. The first is resilience. An extended family is one or more families in a supporting web. Your spouse and children come first, but there are also cousins, in-laws, grandparents—a complex web of relationships among, say, seven, 10, or 20 people...

The second great strength of extended families is their socializing force. Multiple adults teach children right from wrong, how to behave toward others, how to be kind...

But while extended families have strengths, they can also be exhausting and stifling. They allow little privacy; you are forced to be in daily intimate contact with people you didn’t choose. There’s more stability but less mobility. Family bonds are thicker, but individual choice is diminished...

As factories opened in the big U.S. cities, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, young men and women left their extended families to chase the American dream... The families they started were nuclear families. The decline of multigenerational cohabiting families exactly mirrors the decline in farm employment. Children were no longer raised to assume economic roles—they were raised so that at adolescence they could fly from the nest, become independent, and seek partners of their own. They were raised not for embeddedness but for autonomy...

For a time, it all seemed to work. From 1950 to 1965, divorce rates dropped, fertility rates rose, and the American nuclear family seemed to be in wonderful shape. And most people seemed prosperous and happy. In these years, a kind of cult formed around this type of family—what McCall’s, the leading women’s magazine of the day, called “togetherness.” Healthy people lived in two-parent families...

When we have debates about how to strengthen the family, we are thinking of the two-parent nuclear family, with one or two kids, probably living in some detached family home on some suburban street. We take it as the norm, even though this wasn’t the way most humans lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950, and it isn’t the way most humans have lived during the 55 years since 1965.

Today, only a minority of American households are traditional two-parent nuclear families and only one-third of American individuals live in this kind of family. That 1950–65 window was not normal. It was a freakish historical moment when all of society conspired, wittingly and not, to obscure the essential fragility of the nuclear family...

Americans today have less family than ever before. From 1970 to 2012, the share of households consisting of married couples with kids has been cut in half... Over the past two generations, people have spent less and less time in marriage—they are marrying later, if at all, and divorcing more... Over the past two generations, families have also gotten a lot smaller. The general American birth rate is half of what it was in 1960...

Finally, over the past two generations, families have grown more unequal. America now has two entirely different family regimes. Among the highly educated, family patterns are almost as stable as they were in the 1950s; among the less fortunate, family life is often utter chaos. There’s a reason for that divide: Affluent people have the resources to effectively buy extended family, in order to shore themselves up...

And yet in at least one respect, the new families Americans are forming would look familiar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors from eons ago. That’s because they are chosen families—they transcend traditional kinship lines...
Way more at The Atlantic.  Worth the read, IMHO.

13 February 2020

"Choreomaniacs" of the 1500s

Excerpts from an interesting article in the Public Domain Review:
On a hastily built stage before the busy horse market of Strasbourg, scores of people dance to pipes, drums, and horns. The July sun beats down upon them as they hop from leg to leg, spin in circles and whoop loudly. From a distance they might be carnival revellers. But closer inspection reveals a more disquieting scene. Their arms are flailing and their bodies are convulsing spasmodically. Ragged clothes and pinched faces are saturated in sweat. Their eyes are glassy, distant. Blood seeps from swollen feet into leather boots and wooden clogs. These are not revellers but “choreomaniacs”, entirely possessed by the mania of the dance.

 ... this is the apogee of the choreomania that tormented Strasbourg for a midsummer month in 1518. Also known as the “dancing plague”, it was the most fatal and best documented of the more than ten such contagions which had broken out along the Rhine and Moselle rivers since 1374...

The physician and alchemist Paracelsus visited Strasbourg eight years after the plague and became fascinated by its causes. According to his Opus Paramirum, and various chronicles agree, it all started with one woman. Frau Troffea had started dancing on July 14th on the narrow cobbled street outside her half-timbered home. As far as we can tell she had no musical accompaniment but simply “began to dance”. Ignoring her husband’s pleas to cease, she continued for hours, until the sky turned black and she collapsed in a twitching heap of exhaustion. The next morning she was up again on her swollen feet and dancing before thirst and hunger could register. By the third day, people of a great and growing variety — hawkers, porters, beggars, pilgrims, priests, nuns — were drinking in the ungodly spectacle. The mania possessed Frau Troffea for between four and six days, at which point the frightened authorities intervened by sending her in a wagon thirty miles away to Saverne. There she might be cured at the shrine of Vitus, the saint who it was believed had cursed her. But some of those who had witnessed her strange performance had begun to mimic her, and within days more than thirty choreomaniacs were in motion, some so monomaniacally that only death would have the power to intervene...

[Physicians] recommended the treatment given to past victims of this bizarre disease. They must dance themselves free of it. A sixteenth-century chronicle composed by the architect Daniel Specklin records what the council did next. Carpenters and tanners were ordered to transform their guild halls into temporary dance floors, and “set up platforms in the horse market and in the grain market“ in full view of the public. To keep the accursed in motion and so expedite their recovery, dozens of musicians were paid to play drums, fiddles, pipes, and horns, with healthy dancers brought in for further encouragement. The authorities hoped to create the optimal conditions for the dance to exhaust itself.

It backfired horribly...

Feet on the dashboard during a car crash

Via the Whatcouldgowrong subreddit, where the discussion thread includes a link to a related story.

12 February 2020

"I'd like to get to know you better..."

Family "selfies," 1910

I don't know their names; they presumably are from the Finseth branch of the family that moved from Minnesota to the Washington/Oregon area about the turn of the last century.

They seem to be enthusiastic adopters of photographic technology and to be delighted with their pear tree.

Reposted from 2017 to add two more photos I found this week while digitizing our family photo albums:

The couple having a snuggle at a picnic in the second photo are probably the same as the ones showing off the pear tree, and perhaps also are seated and lying in front of the "pioneer" family in the bottom image.  A few indications in the minimally-annotated album suggest that the log home belonged to relatives living in the Washington-Oregon area - almost certainly Norwegians, either first- or second-generation immigrants.

These are "climate warming stripes"

This year, Climate Central and scientist Ed Hawkins have expanded on the original blue-to-red visual. Each stripe represents a yearly temperature anomaly, trending red-hot towards the data’s end in 2018. These “warming stripes” are now available for 160 of our 244 regularly analyzed cities. For cities that lacked a sufficient period of record, graphics for U.S. states are also available. 
Generic climate stripes are available on a huge array of items, from badges/buttons to clothing to automobiles.  More information at Climate Central and Vox.

A Rolling Stones legend from my old home town

In my high school years (early 60s), I lived in Excelsior, a small (population 2,000) suburb of Minneapolis.  In the 1920s and 1930s it was the western terminus of a streetcar line from downtown because it was on Lake Minnetonka, so it became a local tourist destination, and developers built a substantial amusement park with a wooden rollercoaster and a cavernous "Danceland" which hosted Lawrence Welk, the Andrews Sisters and local dance bands.  In 1963 kids were breaking the windows to get in to see the Beach Boys, and in 1964 the Rolling Stones arrived...

A rather interesting longread about the Stones' arrival, performance, and aftermath is available at The Rolling Stones at Danceland...
... probably notable for being what sounds like one of the worst in local history: about 200 people showed up in a 2,000-capacity ballroom to gawk at England’s Newest Hitmakers as they unenthusiastically ran through a tepid set of Chuck Berry covers.
Here's the legend:
According to local legend, Jagger had gone to an Excelsior drugstore the day after the concert. While he was waiting to fill a prescription, Jimmy was ahead of him in line, ordering a cherry Coke, but the drug store had run out, so he had to settle for a regular Coke. At that point, Jimmy turned to Jagger and uttered the famous line: “You can’t always get what you want.”

Years later, Jagger used that line as the title of a song, and it became one of the Stones’ greatest hits. Jagger put the drugstore in Chelsea and cherry Coke became “cherry red” soda, but Mr. Jimmy got a mention in the lyrics.
The veracity of that claim is disputed.

Scott Sterling videos

Trigger warning: slapstick comedy dialed up to 11. (If you're going to watch, you might as well click the fullscreen button).

If you liked that one, you will enjoy this one of him getting facials in a volleyball match:

Don't watch these at work if laughing out loud will get you in trouble...

Addendum: this Scott Sterling-type goal from real life.

Reposted from 2017 because after monitoring politics for several days I needed a laugh.

"Please don't do this"

Via the trashy subreddit,  where the discussion thread offers potential responses.

11 February 2020

Humor scrapbook, part I

Before there were blogs, there were scrapbooks.  Like many people in the pre-internet era, I saved clippings of interesting or humorous items in envelopes and folders and desk drawers, and eventually transferred them into "magnetic" photo albums.  Now I've reached the "downsizing" phase of my life, and have to decide what to do with the material.  I don't want to drag the albums around with me forever, but some of the material is too good to just throw in the dumpster.

So, I'm scanning the pages into TYWKIWDBI.  This is the first of what will eventually be ten weekly posts with material from my old "humor" scrapbook.  The content varies from priceless to junky (especially in the case of humor, which often doesn't age well), but there's no time to sort things out or curate the content (and in any case, old "magnetic" photo albums don't lend themselves to the rearranging of paper content, which starts to shred when you try to remove or rearrange it.)

The text on all the types of "scrapbook" pages can be very difficult to read. One possible workaround is to right-click on a page to open it in a new tab, then zoom the image on that tab.

08 February 2020

One-room schoolhouse, 1921

Another amazing photo from Shorpy.  Click the image to enlarge it and explore the details (or read about them at the link). The children's eyes look unusual because the long exposure plus the bright flash resulted in superimposed eyeballs and eyelids.

My mother, aunts, and uncles attended a one-room schoolhouse which was located on the corner of their farm property.  In the winter one of my uncles (as a child) had the responsibility of going down to the school about 0600 before it opened to start a fire and warm it up before the students and teacher arrived. The teacher lived in a spare room upstairs at our family farm during the school season.

Reposted from 2008 (!) because while scanning my memorabilia into digital form I found a photo of the schoolhouse:

The building was considered modern for its time when it was built in the 1920s because the heating system was a coal stove rather than a fireplace; my aunt remembered that there were even separate outhouses for boys and girls - quite a luxury. 

My mother and her older sister attended this school through the end of 8th grade (in the 1930s).  After that, for their last three years they went into town to "finish" at the public school in order to qualify for admission to college (at St. Olaf).  It is apparent that by that time this photo was taken in 1941, the schoolhouse had fallen into disrepair, with local children attending school in Kenyon.  

I've been back to visit in recent years:

The farm, now modernized and belonging to a new family, is in the background.  The schoolhouse location (indicated by the arrow) is now covered by field corn, which spans to the horizon, in a vast sea of monoculture covering an area that would have been inconceivable to my mother when as a child in the 1920s she cross-cultivated the family's probably 20-acre cornfield with a team of horses.

And so it goes.

Butterfly thermoregulation

Anyone who has spent time just watching butterflies can intuit most of the conclusions here, but the infrared imagery is interesting.

And some more at Popular Science.

Wind turbine blades can't be recycled

As explained at Bloomberg:
The municipal landfill in Casper, Wyoming, is the final resting place of 870 blades whose days making renewable energy have come to end...

Tens of thousands of aging blades are coming down from steel towers around the world and most have nowhere to go but landfills. In the U.S. alone, about 8,000 will be removed in each of the next four years. Europe, which has been dealing with the problem longer, has about 3,800 coming down annually through at least 2022, according to BloombergNEF. It’s going to get worse: Most were built more than a decade ago, when installations were less than a fifth of what they are now...

Wind power is carbon-free and about 85% of turbine components, including steel, copper wire, electronics and gearing can be recycled or reused. But the fiberglass blades remain difficult to dispose of. With some as long as a football field, big rigs can only carry one at a time, making transportation costs prohibitive for long-distance hauls...

On social media, posters derided the inability to recycle something advertised as good for the planet, and offered suggestions of reusing them as links in a border wall or roofing for a homeless shelter.
More at the link, via Kottke.

07 February 2020

Scrapbook, part VIII

This is the final installment.  BTW I quite realize that the text on these pages can be very difficult to read.  One possible workaround is to right-click on a page to open it in a new tab, then zoom the image on that tab.

Coming next: pages from a separate "humor scrapbook."

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