26 October 2020

Baby crab

Fingerprint for scale, via.

Medieval pilgrim badges

Pilgrim badges are decorations worn by some of those who undertake a Christian pilgrimage to a place considered holy by the Church. They became very popular among Catholics in the later medieval period. Typically made of lead alloy, they were sold as souvenirs at sites of Christian pilgrimage and bear imagery relating to the saint venerated there. The production of pilgrim badges flourished in the Middle Ages in Europe, particularly in the 14th and 15th centuries, but declined after the Protestant Reformation of the mid-16th century. Tens of thousands have been found since the mid-19th century, predominantly in rivers. Together they form the largest corpus of medieval art objects to survive to us today... 
Pilgrim badges were cheaply mass-produced in bronze, cuttle-bone or limestone moulds or, less frequently, by die-stamping. Their easy reproducibility and modest media meant that everyone could afford them. British pilgrim badges often have an integral pin and clasp on the reverse whereas continental European badges more usually have sewing loops, but this is not a hard and fast rule. Pilgrims wore badges on their outer clothing and hats or around the neck to show where they had been on pilgrimage...

Badges were made in the Middle Ages for purposes beyond pilgrim souvenirs; livery badges were presented to employees and allies by great figures, and became highly controversial in the decades leading to the Wars of the Roses. Some political badges have survived, including a fine one for the Black Prince. Other badges, with motifs such as lovers' tokens and mini brooches, were perhaps a form of cheap jewelry. Erotic badges showing winged phalluses or vulvas dressed as pilgrims are prolific, although their cultural significance is still debated.
The embedded image shows a pilgrim badge comprised of three phalluses carrying a crowned vulva in a procession [1375-1450].  Found in Brugge.

25 October 2020

Harper's Index #8

Some of these date back to the magazine issues of the 1990s.

Rank of Father’s Day among days on which the largest number of collect calls are made:  1

Rank of flowers, perfume, and fire extinguishers among Mother’s Day gifts Americans consider “v. appropriate”:  1-3

Percentage of Americans who say that women “sometimes deserve to be hit by their husbands or boyfriends: 12

Percentage who say that men “sometimes deserve to be hit by their wives or girlfriends”: 29

Number of students enrolled in “The Films of Keanu Reeves,” a course offered at a Pasadena arts college:  15

Percentage of all magazines on US newsstands last year that went unsold:  57

Ratio of the average speed of growth of human hair to the average speed of growth of Kentucky bluegrass:  1:7

Maximum flying speed of a dragonfly, in miles per hour:  30

Number of federal workers employed full-time to manage national-security documents: 32,397

Estimated number of standard-sized helium balloons required to lift a ten-year old off the ground:  2,450

Number of the world’s 20 most populous cities that meet WHO clean-air standards:  0

Number of IUDs on display at Toronto’s new Museum on the History of Contraception:  319

Number of phrases spoken by Mattel’s new Super Talk Barbie:  100,000

Pounds of tomatoes used in the “battle” at the Festival de la Tomatina, in Spain:  880,000

Amount for which a woman is suing the Pennsylvania lottery commission because she has never won:  $1,500,000

Number of major league baseball players since 1876 who hit a home run the first time at bat:  69

Number of the 55 no longer playing who never hit another:  11

Price of a 4 1/2 - pound steak dinner at Amarillo’s Big Texan Steak Ranch, if consumed within an hour:  $0

Number of the 22,000 customers attempting this since 1960 who were successful:  4,200

Number of paramedics on duty last fall for the speed-eating contest at the Artichoke Festival in California:  2

Number of contestants who have ever required the Heimlich maneuver:  1

Number of months of government-paid leave allowed Swedish parents:  12

Pounds of feed forced down a duck’s throat each day in the last month of its life to produce foie gras:  6

Tons of carbon dioxide produced by one US automobile in its lifetime:  42

Age, in years, of two sweet potatoes on display at the Potato Museum in Albuquerque, NM:  3,794

Gallons of hamburger grease sold by McDonald’s since 1955:  281,250,000

Height, in feet, of a West Virginia prison wall scaled by an escaping inmate using a cord made of dental floss:  18

Number of “offensive” words to be dropped from the 1995 Official Scrabble Dictionary:  100

Number of stories a New York City cat fell last June without sustaining serious injury:  46

Number of stories a cat must fall before reaching its maximum falling velocity of 60 mph:  5

Sheets of uncut dollar bills bought from the Treasury Dept for use as wrapping paper by a Japanese florist:  500
Rank of the local, state, and federal governments among the top three employers in Indianapolis:  1,2,3
Chances that a Santa Claus appearing in a mall this month has a college degree:  2 in 3
Price paid at auction this year for Elvis Presley’s American Express card:  $41,500
Estimated percentage of the $6.7 billion spent on Superfund cleanups since 1980 that has gone to lawyers:  85
Rank of Missouri among states with the greatest number of deaths [per capita]each year caused by hot weather:  1
Membership of the British Sausage Appreciation Society:  10,000
Number of women asked to leave an exhibit of Rubens nudes on Ohio because they were breast-feeding:  1
Pentagon spending 1992 on unnecessary items due to inventory errors, according to GAO:  $40,000,000,000
Percentage of female congressional staffers who say they have been sexually harassed by a congressman:  11
Chances that an American over the age of 45 is taking a prescription drug:  2 in 3
Membership of Philadelphia’s Silent Meeting Club, at whose gatherings talking is forbidden:  80
Number of Donahue shows broadcast since 1967 devoted to transsexualism and cross-dressing:  16
Estimated number of Egyptians who are living in Cairo’s mausoleums:  500,000

Amount the federal government spent each day last year on “intelligence”:  $79,000,000
Percentage of US spies in E. Germany since 1948 who proved to be double agents, according to the CIA:  100

Hip measurement, in inches, of a size-eight dress sold in the United States last year:  38
Hip measurement of a size-eight dress sold sixty years ago:  33.5

Percentage of American colleges that do not require an American history course for graduation:  80
Number of US universities that have a Taco Bell Distinguished Professorship of Fast Service:  1
Number of abandoned nuclear reactors in the world’s oceans:  9
Pounds of toxic chemicals released during each space-shuttle launch:  77,000

p.s. - I'm working with a new platform for the blog and have no idea why it sometimes chooses to double-space after a carriage return.  It's maddening...

24 October 2020

The original "The Ladykillers" is coming back

"The much-loved British caper starring Alec Guinness is being reissued, 65 years on, fully restored from the original negative. It was shot at Ealing Studios and around King’s Cross in London, where photographers captured the stars relaxing on set." [more pix at the link]
The 1955 version was IMHO way better than the 2004 remake (it carries a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).  I didn't realize that Katie Johnson (pictured above) won the BAFTA that year for Best Actress in a Leading Role,


"Senate Majority Mitch McConnell told his Republican colleagues Tuesday that he has privately been urging the Trump White House not to strike a coronavirus relief deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the November 3 election, warning that an agreement could interfere with his chamber's plan to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court early next week...

While McConnell's stated excuse for standing in the way of relief is his commitment to confirming Barrett as quickly as possible, that justification may be intended to obscure the fact that many Senate Republicans are simply opposed to additional coronavirus aid, whether or not the package would disrupt the right-wing judge's path to the Supreme Court. Others have warned in recent days that in preparation for a potential Trump loss next month, McConnell is laying the groundwork to force crippling austerity under a Biden administration..."

For fox ache.

Sawfish sword (Papua New Guinea)

An awesome weapon that could be used in peacetime to harvest wheat.  This photo from an auction site, where it was described as 
"A decorated sawfish rostrum weapon probably Papua New Guinea, forty toothed blade polychrome painted around repeated dark crescents, raised crocodile head red-clay moulding over proximal end, inlaid with nassa shell scales and cowry shell eyes, mounted on carved wooden zoomorphic grip with human face pommel, 33in. (84cm.) long."
Presumably a nineteenth-century item.  The hammer price was not published.  Via the always interesting Artefact Porn subreddit.

Minnesota Golden Gopher football

The virus-delayed season starts a couple hours from now.  At the start of last year (highlights of the season embedded above) I offered the bold prediction that the unranked Gophers would finish the season ranked in the top-25 nationally.  In fact they finished at #10.

This year no season prediction is reliable because of the coronavirus.  The Big Ten conference has very rigid standards, testing each player multiple times per week and if a player tests positive, he has to isolate from all team activities for three weeks.  Since most of the Big Ten campuses are in the midwest and in the center of the coronavirus resurgence, it is almost impossible that the football teams will get through the season without major disruptions of their available personnel.

23 October 2020

Unhappiness resulting from too many choices

From an article published by the Stanford Center on Longevity:
Summary: We presume that more choices allows us to get exactly what we want, making us happier.  While there is no doubt that some choice is better than none, more may quickly become too much.  Drawbacks include:
  • Regret:  More options means constantly considering the option we didn’t choose –decreasing satisfaction overall.
    • Instead, learn to accept “good enough” and stop thinking about it.
  • Adaptation: By becoming accustomed to whatever we’ve chosen, the availability to more options decreases our satisfaction with our choice.
    • Instead, limit thinking about options foregone, and focus on the positive of the option chosen.
  • Unattainable expectations: With increased options, our expectation escalates until we constantly expect to get precisely what we want.  Thus anything less than perfect is disappointing, and we blame ourselves (as the decision makers) for our unhappiness.
    • Instead, control expectations to a certain standard of requirements, and keep them reasonable.
  • Paralysis: Too many options can decrease the likelihood of making any decision at all.
    • Instead, limit options when decisions aren’t crucial.
Largely an issue for modern, affluent Western societies, the paradox of too much choice strains consumers’ capacity for decision making.  Making financial security decisions simple, easy, and justifiable may facilitate increased and happier participation.
The source article has a detailed analysis of what I often refer to as "first-world problems."  Via Boing Boing.  Photo taken at my local Target.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader dragonmamma for providing the link to this relevant Calvin and Hobbes cartoon:

Reposted from last year to add these interesting thoughts from a column in Harper's:
Even modest restaurants in Japan often present you with a prix fixe menu. Freedom doesn’t mean an abundance of choice so much as liberation from the burden of too much choice.

It took me a long time, after meeting my wife, to see that the kindest and most thoughtful thing to do in many situations was not to ask her where she wanted to eat or go. To take the decision myself was to free her from both the burden of choice and the responsibility that follows (knowing that, when it came to what to wear or what to eat at home, she’d extend the same kindness by making the decisions for me).

In Japan a son traditionally follows his father into his profession, even if that’s the profession of monk or musician. Rather than choosing what he’ll be good at, he aims to be good at what’s chosen for him.

20 October 2020

New location for salivary glands discovered

"Any modern anatomy book will show just three major types of salivary glands: one set near the ears, another below the jaw and another under the tongue. “Now, we think there is a fourth,” said Dr. Matthijs Valstar, a surgeon and researcher at the Netherlands Cancer Institute and an author on the study, published last month in the journal Radiotherapy and Oncology...

The new find, Dr. Vogel said, might help explain why people who undergo radiation therapy for cancer of the head or neck so often end up with chronic dry mouth and swallowing problems. Because these obscure glands weren’t known to doctors, “nobody ever tried to spare them” from such treatments, Dr. Vogel said."

The full study is here:
"To our knowledge, this is the first description of paired macroscopic (sero)mucous gland locations in the human posterolateral nasopharyngeal wall, and an indication of their clinical relevance in RT for HNC. Based on its predominant location over the torus tubarius, we propose the name “tubarial glands”. These gland locations were present as macroscopic structures in the PSMA PET/CT scans of all 100 studied individuals, and in two investigated cadavers (one of each gender). Microscopically, they indeed showed salivary gland tissue, highly concentrated bilaterally near the torus tubarius, with macroscopically visible draining duct openings towards the nasopharyngeal wall. High-dose RT to this area lead to significant clinical toxicity. These findings support the identification of the tubarial glands as a new anatomical and functional entity, representing a part of the salivary gland system."

Sobriety test


The Hunter Biden scandal summarized

I have literally not been following the story, but I found this summary of it today.

"Good night, Billy. Sweet dreams..."

(via) I was immediately reminded of this old New Yorker cartoon:

"Liberal mob chaos" predicted if Biden wins

"... if Biden should somehow manage to win, "liberal mob chaos" will take over the streets of U.S. cities... a Trump loss—improbable as she believes that may be—would create a "crazy transition of power" that will shake the country... I do think America will be in big trouble if Joe Biden wins the presidency because of the type of chaos and madness that we saw in Seattle and Portland and other places is the type of liberal mob chaos that will take place in communities across this country. Joe Biden has shown he is unwilling and unable to stand up to the liberal mob... What America will look like under a Joe Biden presidency, we can either continue under the path of prosperity, safety and security under this president or we can go down the path of socialism under Joe Biden and Kamala Harris..."

 Who is that speaking?  Oh...

.. never mind.  She's confusing a potential immense street party with liberal mob violence.

19 October 2020

"Wear a mask"

 A Beauty and the Beast classic repurposed for a good cause.  (Comments closed because there's nothing more to say.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...