11 December 2019

Piebald fawn

Posted for the photo (via), but then I had to look up about piebaldness:
A piebald or pied animal is one that has a pattern of unpigmented spots (white) on a pigmented background of hair, feathers or scales. Thus a piebald black and white dog is a black dog with white spots. The animal's skin under the white background is not pigmented.

Location of the unpigmented spots is dependent on the migration of melanoblasts (primordial pigment cells) from the neural crest to paired bilateral locations in the skin of the early embryo.

Animals with this pattern may include birds, cats, cattle, dogs, foxes, horses, pigs, and snakes. Some animals also exhibit colouration of the irises of the eye that match the surrounding skin (blue eyes for pink skin, brown for dark). The underlying genetic cause is related to a condition known as leucism.

In medieval English "pied" indicated alternating contrasting colours making up the quarters of an item of costume or livery device in heraldry. Court jesters and minstrels are sometimes depicted in pied costume and this is the origin of the name of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The word "piebald" originates from a combination of "pie," from "magpie", and "bald", meaning "white patch" or spot. The reference is to the distinctive black-and-white plumage of the magpie.
And I sure didn't know this:
The bald eagle derives its name from the word "piebald" in reference to the contrast of its white head and tail with dark body.
See also: Piebald robin.

"Radically traditional" farming

This morning I found a very informative video at the BBC, about a Georgia farmer who manages his (extensive) farm in such a way that the cattle do not have an adverse carbon footprint.  His "regenerative farming" is a reversion to (and enhancement of) older practices radically different from modern "factory farming."

The video takes three minutes and is worth a watch.  Unfortunately I don't know how to embed it, but you can watch it at this BBC page. [addendum - here's a somewhat messy embed] -

As I searched for the YouTube version, I discovered that Will Harris' White Oak Pastures farm is well known and has been the subject of lots of videos.  I'm going to embed a seven-minute one entitled White Oak Pastures: Our Story -

I come from several generations of Norwegians and Norwegian-American farmers who raised milk cows, chickens, hogs, corn etc in the old "family farm" fashion, so this video spoke to me.  Mr. Harris has taken the process to the next level in terms of recycling farm "waste."  Very impressive.

Addendum:  For those who prefer reading to watching, here is a very good longread about Mr. Harris and his farm.

Some people use fake service dogs - updated again

As reported by the BBC:
California-based Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organisation that provides highly trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities, says "service dog fraud" is making it more and more difficult for genuine owners to be taken seriously...

It is easy to buy a service dog vest on the internet. Numerous websites offer products such as official harnesses and tags. In some cases they are sold with a note stating that it is the owner's responsibility to ensure their animal is properly trained, but there is no system of enforcement.

Erin, who preferred not to give her full name, lives with her boyfriend and their dog, Bo, in Los Angeles.

She went online to buy a service vest for her pooch, because she wanted to avoid the fees charged by airlines for non-service animals - in the region of $90-$150 (£60-£100) to fly, one-way. Unlike working animals, they must be restrained in a container for the entire flight.

Erin, who is not disabled, travels everywhere with Bo because she says she can not bear to leave him home alone....

Many travellers are accompanied by their pets because they have special permission, based on a doctors' letter and an official certificate. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not required to have any formal training, but are allowed on board without an additional fee...

Still, she says, "I know more faux emotional support dogs than real ones."
Reposted from 2015 to add this new development:
After months of deliberation, the Department of Transportation has released formal guidance regarding animals on planes. The 28-page document released this month makes it clear that three types of service animals should be prioritized for travel: cats, dogs and miniature horses...

There are many reasons someone would fly with a miniature horse, disability experts say. Although a growing number of emotional support animals have emerged in recent years, in the case of miniature horses, their function as service animal is primarily physical... The animals are mild-mannered and fast learners, with nearly 360-degree vision. They may also offer balance support to individuals with physical disabilities...

True miniature horses, which are not to be confused with ponies, are less than 34 inches in height...

Before going to the gate, Ramouni will ask someone to lead them to the women’s restroom. “My horse has been trained to go potty in a plastic bag,” she said. “I would just give her the command to go potty, then I flush it down the toilet.”..

Airlines have typically put Ramouni and Cali in the bulkhead row, which has more legroom and no seats in front. Throughout the flight Cali stands at Ramouni’s feet.
Reposted once more to add this report of a man who registered a beehive as a service animal:
"I was thinking that it's just too easy to get these animals to be service animals," Keller said.
He went to a site called USAServiceDogRegistration.com, and successfully registered the picture of the beehive as a service animal. "[I wanted to] bring awareness to the issue that anyone could do this," Keller said...

A quick web search turns up many service animal registration sites. But Keller's stunt showed that some of them do very little to verify the animals they're registering. "They're very silly. They don't mean anything," said Jaymie Cardin, who trains service dogs at AZ Dog Sports in Scottsdale. "You can go pay for a registry on one of those web sites, and basically, you're just paying for a piece of paper and to put a name on a list."...

Plus, federal law says a service animal can only be a dog or miniature horse, so, no bees. "The law is pretty clear that a service animal is an animal that is trained to perform a specific task related to the disability," said Sey In, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. A service animal doesn't need to be registered anywhere, let alone on a third party website.

Keller hopes all the buzz around his beehive stunt proves his point about these registration sites. "It's making people believe all animals are service animals when they're not," Keller said. "And there's a clear difference."
Via Neatorama.

The top "drunkest" cities in the United States

"To identify the U.S. cities with the highest and lowest excessive drinking rates, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of adults who report binge or heavy drinking across 381 metro areas. Metro level data were aggregated from county level data provided by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program. All data are as of the most recent available year. Median household income and poverty data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The number of bars per capita came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health outcomes, including the number of potential lives lost per 100,000 people due to premature death annually and the percentage of adults who report fair or poor health were also aggregated from county-level data obtained from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps."
The embedded image (via) shows the top ten.  Six of the next ten were also from Wisconsin.  You can also view the driest cities in the United States [think Utah], but the data are arranged in a clickbait fashion.

The leaders of Finland's five government parties

Res ipsa loquitur, but note their youth compared to elected American politicians (and let's skip the comments about "lack of diversity").

Composite image via, with more information at The Times and elsewhere with a quick Google.

10 December 2019

Can some reader figure this out??

Video posted at BoingBoing this morning.  No answer there (yet) as to why these interconnected circles were created in what appears to be tidal mud flats.  Are they weirs?  Evaporative catchments for mineral extraction?  What???

Location said to be near Isla Aguada (Campeche) in Mexico.  Note the immense extent of the structures.  The connecting "canals" appear to have been created or enhanced with large earth-moving equipment.  Some look fresh, and there are what looks like older ones that have silted in.

This blog has amazing readership.  I suspect someone will know or can research the answer.

Solved within three hours!  (answer in Rocky's comment)

Addendum:  Here's an interesting screencap I made from the map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo linked in jschmidt's comment:

Fascinating.  There must be more information somewhere...

Addendum:  Found some relevant information in a video about mangrove restoration in Thailand (relevant part at the 7:40-8:40 segment or so).  Apparently those drainage channels are dug by hand with shovels.

09 December 2019

Two mashups of the movies of 2019 - updated

Enjoyable even when you haven't seen the movies, which are listed (with time citations) here.  As always, I recommend clicking the fullscreen icon for best viewing.

Reposted from earlier this week to add an even better (IMHO) mashup:

I always recommend clicking the fullscreen icon in the LR corner for videos like these.

List of the movies used for the video clips and the voiceovers.  The operatic aria was familiar.  Most of the film clips were new to me, so I had to look them up; interesting how many come from movies that were panned or poorly received by the public.

Previously: A Sleepy Skunk mashup for the movies of 2017.  And for the movies of 2013.

Fix the dam infrastructure! - updated

Thousands of people in the U.S. may be at risk from dams that are rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition. An AP analysis found 1,688 dams in these conditions are high hazard, meaning their failure can cause human death.
An Associated Press interactive graphic shows the location of dangerous dams in the United States.  My part of the country doesn't have many, but my old stomping grounds back in Kentucky and Indiana are just riddled with them.

Note the graphic is interactive, so not only can you zoom to your area, but you can hover the mouse for the information shown in the top image.

I am so very, very tired of this bullshit.  American politicians have been kicking the can down the road for way too many election cycles.  Someone has to raise taxes and fix these things.  Maybe it will require electing a Socialist to get these problems corrected.

Reposted from just a month ago to add new information and a different perspective.   The source I originally cited was picked up by our local Wisconsin State Journal, which then posted an article about the dams at risk in the state of Wisconsin.

We've had significant problems, because in recent years alterations in the climate have resulted in multiple hundred-year flooding events, some of which washed out local dams, exacerbating the flooding damage:

When I wrote this original post for TYWKIWDBI, I concluded with a brief rant about elected officials who are reluctant to increase taxes to pay for upgrades (or basic maintenance) to infrastructure.  What I have now learned from the Wisconsin State Journal article is that federal, state, and local governments are not solely to blame, because many of the at-risk dams in Wisconsin were privately built.
Wisconsin has only six dams considered a risk to human safety that are in poor condition, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Even so, eight dams in the state were washed out by record-setting rainfalls last year...

The association estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.

“Most people have no clue about the vulnerabilities when they live downstream from these private dams,” said Craig Fugate, a former administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “When they fail, they don’t fail with warning. They just fail, and suddenly you can find yourself in a situation where you have a wall of water and debris racing toward your house with very little time, if any, to get out.”..

All eight dams [Wisconsin dams that failed] were in fair or satisfactory condition, according to the DNR.
They all failed during extreme rain events,” said Tanya Lourigan, state dam safety engineer for the Wisconsin DNR. “They don’t have a history of being in poor condition and being neglected.”
Micheel said the historic rainfall revealed a design flaw in the dams, which are highest in the center. When spillways can’t keep up and water overtops the dam, that slope focused the rushing water toward one side of the dam, where it quickly ate into the hillside.
Investigations showed that the clay structures themselves held, but the sandstone they were attached to gave way. “They did their job for 50 years,” Micheel said. “Nobody ever envisioned them overtopping. The overtopping showed the weakness.”..

One of the goals is to install weather monitoring stations and warning systems. Another is to re-evaluate the 100-year floodplains based on current land use and rainfall patterns and how best to manage them.
“We need to change what we’re doing here,” Micheel said. “It isn’t going away.”
Mea culpa for jumping to conclusions (it's one of the few forms of exercise that bloggers get).

When your semen carries another man's DNA

Excerpts from an absolutely fascinating report in the New York Times:
Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with...

But four years after his lifesaving procedure, it was not only Mr. Long’s blood that was affected. Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” he said...

Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA. The word takes its name from a fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology composed of lion, goat and serpent parts. Doctors and forensic scientists have long known that certain medical procedures turn people into chimeras, but where exactly a donor’s DNA shows up — beyond blood — has rarely been studied with criminal applications in mind...

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two...

In 2004, investigators in Alaska uploaded a DNA profile extracted from semen to a criminal DNA database. It matched a potential suspect. But there was a problem: The man had been in prison at the time of the assault. It turned out that he had received a bone marrow transplant. The donor, his brother, was eventually convicted...

In 2008, he was trying to identify the victim of a traffic accident for the National Forensic Service in Seoul, South Korea. Blood showed that the individual was female. But the body appeared to be male, which was confirmed by DNA in a kidney, but not in the spleen or the lung, which contained male and female DNA. Eventually, he figured out that the victim had received a bone marrow transplant from his daughter.
More worth reading at the link.

For the liberal/progressive readers

Comments closed.  Moving on to other things...

Cityscape, Gdansk

Via the Europe subreddit, where I found this observation:
"Parts of the historic old city of GdaƄsk, which had suffered large-scale destruction during the war, were rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. The reconstruction was not tied to the city's pre-war appearance, but instead was politically motivated as a means of culturally cleansing and destroying all traces of German influence from the city. Any traces of German tradition were ignored, suppressed, or regarded as "Prussian barbarism" only worthy of demolition, while Flemish/Dutch, Italian and French influences were used to replace the historically accurate Germanic architecture which the city was built upon since the 14th century."
And btw, why is it called a citySCAPE?
Abstracted from landscape, the suffix representing Middle Dutch -schap (“-ship”), from Old Dutch -skap (“-ship”), from Proto-Germanic *-skapiz (“-ship”), from *skapaz (“shape, form”). Cognate with Modern Dutch -schap (“-ship”), German -schaft (“-ship”), Swedish -skap (“-ship”), Old English -sceap, -scipe (“-ship”).  
The root words similar to those for shape.

Rethinking the "map of life"

From an interesting article in the Washington Post:
It’s time to get serious about a major redesign of life. Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them all on at the end. Only old age got longer.

As a result, most people are anxious about the prospect of living for a century. Asked about aspirations for living to 100, typical responses are “I hope I don’t outlive my money” or “I hope I don’t get dementia.”..

Long lives are not the problem. The problem is living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.
Retirements that span four decades are unattainable for most individuals and governments; education that ends in the early 20s is ill-suited for longer working lives; and social norms that dictate intergenerational responsibilities between parents and young children fail to address families that include four or five living generations...

We agreed that longevity demands rethinking of all stages of life, not just old age. To thrive in an age of rapid knowledge transfer, children not only need reading, math and computer literacy, but they also need to learn to think creatively and not hold on to “facts” too tightly. They’ll need to find joy in unlearning and relearning. Teens could take breaks from high school and take internships in workplaces that intrigue them. Education wouldn’t end in youth but rather be ever-present and take many forms outside of classrooms, from micro-degrees to traveling the world...

Financing longevity requires major rethinking. Rather than saving ever-larger pots of money for the end of life, we could pool risks in new ways.
No answers at the link, but some thought-provoking observations.  It's too late for me.  Save yourself.

About that top-secret windowless skyscraper

Recycling Christmas cards

Before my elderly mother developed dementia, she lived for 25 years in an apartment complex for active seniors.  Among the amenities available was a "crafts" room typically used by a group of ladies creating quilts.  Before and after the winter holiday season however, the tables and shelves were used to recycle Christmas cards.

There are two images embedded above.  The top one is a scan of the back and front of a recycled card; the one below shows the inside.  Immediately apparent is the absence of any commercial greeting or any manufacturer's name, because the cards were created by cutting the front from a used card and gluing it to a piece of medium-weight construction paper.  Blank envelopes were purchased commercially using proceeds from the sale of the recycled cards (IIRC, about 10-25c per card).

I always viewed this as a beautiful win-win-win situation.  Residents of the facility reluctant to dispose of family cards as waste were not shy about offering them a second life.  The residents were generally on fixed incomes (most of which was used to afford living there) so they benefited from having inexpensive cards to purchase, and the blank inside not only avoided the mindless drivel often printed there, but also allowed users more space to write meaningful messages to family and friends.  And finally the activity of creating cards and selling them was an inducement for solitary elderly people to get out of their units and interact with other residents.

This sort of thing should be done more often.

06 December 2019

How to tease your dog

Very few videos on the web cause me to literally "laugh out loud."  This one did. With a hat tip for the via to Miss Cellania at Neatorama.

Addendum:  I just reviewed some of TYWKIWDBI's statistics and found that this video I posted back in 2011 has had the most views of all 16,000+ posts on the blog.  So I think it's worth a repost...
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