16 May 2022

Peephole in the woods

The University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison has several ponds that serve as stormwater catchment areas.  The ponds are full this time of year and home to an abundance of turtles, frogs, salamanders, etc.  This year a couple sandhill cranes decided to nest on the reed vegetation next to the viewing platform, so the canvas curtains are down -

The male is behind her, wading in the pond scavenging tasty treats.  Elsewhere in the arboretum another couple was foraging in the shrubbery section -

- and a couple tom turkeys were putting on a display for an unimpressed hen:

15 May 2022

The "vomiting camel" pattern

Explained in a video at Financial Times, but will be of interest only to stock market technicians/chartists, and of use to nobody.

Sapiosexual defined

"Sapiophile" is also valid: "A person who is attracted, whether it be sexually, romantically, or otherwise, to intelligence or intelligent people rather than to the physical appearance."

"Conflict entrepreneurs" explained

"In her 2021 book “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out,” journalist Amanda Ripley explains what can turn disagreement — inevitable in any group or community — into potentially ruinous “high conflict”: a moment “when conflict clarifies into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them.”

In high conflict, the nuanced middle flees the debate, leaving only the most extreme voices to shout from their two distant poles. The threats feel existential. And the normal rules of engagement — the ones that allow a society to function — cease to apply.

The runaway blaze of high conflict is stoked by what Ripley calls “conflict entrepreneurs”: those who have something to gain from the conflict’s continuing, and who thus help it along rather than seek to tone it down, bundling conflicts together to make them feel worse and more distressing. These people delight in the fight, and in adding fuel to the fire...

When not calcified into a state of high alarm, conflict can be positive — it can force us to reckon with our own beliefs and those of our neighbors. Conflict can motivate us to be better people, and compel us to seek solutions that might actually create radical and productive societal change...

The constructive approach is one of curiosity and recognition — a commitment to finding the common ground that must and always does exist, and to not throwing more fuel on the fire.
Excerpts from an op-ed piece on abortion in today's Washington Post.

12 May 2022

An early sign of summer

The first Monarch butterfly of the year in Wisconsin was seen two days ago in Green County (on the Illinois border).  Today we found 29 Monarch eggs (the white dots on the undersurface of the leaves) on about a dozen 3-4" tall milkweed spears in our yard here in a suburb of Madison.

The plants in the photo are emerging between a concrete driveway and a granite boulder (the retained heat of both facilitates early germination from the underground rhizome).  The "No Mow May" policy is resulting in lots more milkweed being accessible to the Monarchs in the grassy lawn as well (more on this later).

11 May 2022

Lace bug with beautiful wings

I presume most of those colors are structural rather than pigments.  The colors are neither pigments nor structural, but are caused by "thin film interference", the same process as in soap bubbles and oil puddles (with a tip of the blogging hat to reader Drabkikker for the info).  There are no useful comments at the via.

A short story

Credit: Phil Shaw.

Duelling yard signs

From Alexandria, Virginia (incidentally my first home town, late 1940s):
They started to wonder what that second sign, available on Etsy for $31.95, was supposed to say. Was it a direct rebuke of the idea that all were welcome in their community? Was it an attack on the messaging of the Democratic Party, which often uses such phrases as rallying cries? Or was it just trying to be funny?

Either way, many neighbors said, the dueling yard signs made public a sort of tension that is rarely articulated in an area proud of its understated brand of liberalism...

On the block of Oronoco Street where the yard signs appeared, some residents said they almost never discuss their views on housing or politics. They much prefer to learn the names of each other’s dogs and kids, exchanging pleasantries but respecting each other’s privacy.

That dynamic made it all the more unusual when another sign — an apparent response to the response — appeared in the front yard on Oronoco Street.

This one said: “In this house we believe that using snark and sarcasm and pedantic, overly complex language to respond to others’ somewhat meaningless virtue-signaling is just divisive and trollish behavior, but hey, signs are fun.”

Embedded image cropped and brightened from the original at the Washington Post

Los Angeles County has more people than some entire states

The blue ones.  

How would you explain this?

Embedded above is the nutrition label for McCain Flavour Maker Smokey BBQ Fries.  It appears to show that a serving of the fries gains calories when it is baked (baked, mind you - not deep fried).

Explanation at explainlikeimfive.


The New York Times has removed the word “fetus” from its Wordle answers to keep the game “distinct from the news”, a move apparently related to last week’s leaked Roe v Wade supreme court draft ruling...

The game’s answer-list is pre-written and assigned to a date.  “When we discovered last week that this particular word would be featured today, we switched it for as many solvers as possible,” the newspaper said...

“At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news,” the Times said... When the Times acquired Wordle it also removed words such as “lynch,” “slave” and “wench”.
I understand that some people are offended by words, but I think this is an overreaction.

Revisiting Kottke - updated

The more perspicacious among you will have noticed that the most recent six posts have been sourced from Kottke.org.  I'll explain by starting with a backstory.

I created TYWKIWDBI back in 2007.  That is a long time ago in internet years, but I was not a pioneer.  When I wrote that first post, I was modeling my blog after a group of blogs I had been visiting and reading for probably ten years, such as J-Walk, Nothing to do with Arbroath, Neatorama, Cynical-CPresurfer ... and Kottke.

I compiled a system whereby I would visit some daily, some on specific days of the week, some on weekends - so that I could monitor everything.  It was of course a hopelessly impossible task (as evidenced by the lengthy "blogrolls" at the bottom of the right sidebar here on the front page.

Over the years, news sites (BBC, NYT, StarTribune, Guardian etc) and aggregators (Reddit, Digg) displaced blogs from the "daily" reads.  And time limitations meant that the once-a-week blogs were visited less often.  And thus, Kottke fell through the cracks.

And that's a shame, because Kottke is very much like TYWKIWDBI in terms of content, format, and worldview.  A discussion thread at Ask Metafilter discussed the question of what blogs are like Kottke?  I was pleased to see TYWKIWDBI offered as one of the choices.

Jason Kottke started his blog in 1998 - about ten years before me.  
"Frequent topics of interest among the 26,000+ posts include art, technology, science, visual culture, design, music, cities, food, architecture, sports, endless nonsense, and carefully curated current events, all of it lightly contextualized. Basically, it’s the world’s complete knowledge, relentlessly filtered through my particular worldview, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails."
There is an interesting interview with Jason Kottke at Rebecca's Pocket:
"Many blogs, including the most visible ones, are vertically focused on things like Web 2.0 (TechCrunch), politics (Instapundit), gadgets (Gizmodo), or celebrity gossip (The Superficial). Kottke.org isn't like that; the only unifying factor is I write about and link to whatever I find interesting. Not that I don't focus mainly on a small groups of topics I'm interested in (technology, photography, food, design, economics, science, etc.) but the day-to-day or week-to-week focus varies widely. Which makes the site an acquired taste; you actually have to read it for a bit to get the gist."
That's the backstory.  Kottke is now back on my daily read list, displacing BoingBoing.

Addendum:  On May 9, Jason Kottke announced that he is taking an extended blogcation ("sabbatical") which will last several months.  I mention this because his announcement incorporates a "blogroll" with many of the sites he regularly visits:
P.P.P.S. A quick blogroll if you’re looking for sites and newsletters to keep you busy while I’m gone. In no particular order, a non-exhaustive list: The Kid Should See This, The Morning News, Waxy, Colossal, Curious About Everything, Open Culture, Drawing Links, Clive Thompson @ Medium, Cup of Jo, swissmiss, Storythings, things magazine, Present & Correct, Spoon & Tamago, Dense Discovery, Austin Kleon, NextDraft, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Poetry Is Not a Luxury, A Thing or Two, The Honest Broker, Interconnected, The Whippet, Craig Mod, Why is this interesting?, Sidebar, The Prepared, Life Is So Beautiful, Fave 5, Sentiers, The Fox Is Black, and Scrapbook Chronicles. Happy hunting!
All of the sites are linked on his post.  Even though Kottke's interests are worldview are similar to mine, his favorite sites are totally different from mine (in the right sidebar of TYWKIWDBI, but way out of date).  I plan to explore those links, and suggest you consider the same.


The trailer above is for a wonderful documentary movie with a focus not on the plants or techniques per se, but instead on the principles of gardening.  The subject matter is the famous Les Quatre Vents, a private garden (occasionally open to the public) in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, and on its creator/gardener, Francis Cabot.  

This is the first time I've heard the the word "numinous" used in a movie.  
1) Of or relating to a numen (divinity); indicating the presence of a divinity. [from mid 17th c.] "His interest in numinous objects led him on a quest for the Holy Grail."

2) Evoking a sense of the mystical, sublime, or transcendent; awe-inspiring.

The movie is streaming on Amazon, and will be available as a DVD from your local library. 

More information at the Garden Conservancy.

08 May 2022


A flash game in which you convert a pattern such as the top one into the bottom one, by clicking on the hexagons to rotate them.  Each pattern appears to have a unique solution.  I found it to be interesting, but frankly not very challenging.

The images above are only embeds; the game is at this link.  Via Neatorama.

Reposted from 2011.

06 May 2022

Introducing "No Mow May"

The "No Mow May" movement began in the U.K. in 2019.  I first encountered the concept in a New York Times article last month, reporting on a No Mow May program in Appleton Wisconsin last spring.
Appleton, some 200 miles north of Chicago, is a small college city nestled on the shores of the meandering Fox River. Two assistant professors at a local liberal arts college, Dr. Israel Del Toro and Dr. Relena Ribbons of Lawrence University, knew that No Mow May was popular in Britain. They wondered if the initiative might take root here, too.

They began working with the Appleton Common Council, and, in 2020, Appleton became the first city in the United States to adopt No Mow May, with 435 homes registering to take part...

Dr. Del Toro and Dr. Ribbons studied the impacts of No Mow May on Appleton’s bees. They found that No Mow May lawns had five times the number of bees and three times the bee species than did mown parks. Armed with this information, they asked other communities to participate.

By 2021, a dozen communities across Wisconsin had adopted No Mow May. It also spread to communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Montana.

I learned about No Mow May in the fall of 2020 when I was looking to make my own yard more friendly to bees. The following spring, I helped organize No Mow May in Shorewood Hills, Wis., where I live. When I realized how quickly the movement was spreading, I started photographing it across Wisconsin...

Not everyone appreciated the unmown lawns. Allison Roberts, a resident of Prairie du Chien, Wis., participated in No Mow May even though her city hadn’t adopted it. After a few weeks, she awoke from a nap to find police officers pounding on her door.

“Apparently, they were here to ensure I was not dead,” she said.

Nor were her neighbors happy with her shaggy lawn. One of them, unable to stand the sight of it, eventually mowed it without her permission.
The concept was embraced by the Madison suburb of Verona last year.
"Such rules don’t mandate that you let your weeds and grass go shaggy in May, but municipalities simply won’t punish residents who choose to let their lawns go. By June 1, enforcement of lawn length generally resumes, and residents will be required to keep those lawns nice and tidy once again."
In England, a variety of rare plants popped up in some residents' yards:
People who chose not to mow were rewarded with rare plants. More than 250 wild plant species were recorded by gardeners last year, including wild strawberry, wild garlic and very rare plants including adder’s-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snakeshead fritillary and eyebright. Many orchids were also seen, including the declining ​man orchid, green-winged orchid, southern and northern marsh orchid and bee orchid.
The StarTribune reports the concept is widespread in Minnesota:
In addition to Edina, Monticello, Vadnais Heights and New Brighton are among the Minnesota cities participating in No Mow May for the first time. Those municipalities will not enforce city codes that restrict lawns from exceeding a maximum turf length (10 inches in Edina and Vadnais Heights, 8 inches in Monticello and New Brighton) during the month of May... ""The best part about it is it doesn't cost anything to do it and it makes such a big difference."
The Arboretum here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison notes that dandelions play a beneficial role in the health of lawn turf:
Dandelion (Taxaracum officinale) is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout most of North America. The flowers are visited by many pollinators and are an important nectar source early in the season when few other flowers are blooming. Their deep taproots help to loosen and aerate soil as well as pull nutrients like calcium from deep in the soil, which makes the nutrients available to other plants once dandelion leaves decompose. Several bird species also eat dandelion flowers, buds, and seeds.
I found the two embedded lawn sign images online, and since they don't appear to be copyrighted, I took the liberty of printing them out.  Tomorrow I'll attach them to a lawn sign in our front yard to let our neighbors know why the grass is getting long.  And I'll try to update this post from time to time to show what the lawn looks like and how the local bee population is doing.

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