26 June 2022

Summer fun in the Midwest

"Six-Time World Champion Lumberjill Shana Verstegen lost her mother to a neurological brain disorder.

Through the Midwest Log Rolling Championships she combines her two passions: lumberjack sports and fighting for a cure for Huntington’s Disease.

Money raised by the Midwest Log Rolling Championships will go directly to help research possible treatments and cures, local patient and family care, and community education in Wisconsin. On a larger scale, HDSA’s coordinated national and international research will also benefit people with diseases related to Huntington’s – diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and many dystrophies."

Song at Glastonbury festival dedicated to the U.S. Supreme Court

More info on Olivia Rodrigo (American with three Grammys, Time's 2021 "Entertainer of the Year") and Lily Allen (Brit with Grammy, Brit Award, and MTV Video nominations, and the composer of the song).
In response to the 2022 overruling of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Rodrigo performed "Fuck You" with British singer Lily Allen at Glastonbury Festival. She prefaced the performance by dedicating it to the associate justices who voted to overturn the agreement, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, saying “I'm devastated and terrified. So many women and so many girls are going to die because of this. I wanted to dedicate this next song to the five members of the Supreme Court who have showed us that at the end of the day, they truly don’t give a shit about freedom. The song is for [those] justices.” The Guardian described it as a "thrilling and furious" moment.
"Fuck You" was originally composed in response to the far-right British National Party, but has found wider application, and has been popular throughout Europe.  Excerpts of the lyrics:
[Verse 1]
Look inside, look inside your tiny mind
Then look a bit harder
'Cause we're so uninspired, so sick and tired
Of all the hatred you harbour
So you say it's not okay to be gay
Well, I think you're just evil
You're just some racist who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval

Fuck you (Fuck you), fuck you very, very much
'Cause we hate what you do
And we hate your whole crew
So please, don't stay in touch (Da-da-da-da-da-da-da)
Fuck you (Fuck you), fuck you very, very much
'Cause your words don't translate
And it's getting quite late
So please, don't stay in touch

[Verse 2]
Do you get, do you get a little kick out of being small minded?
You want to be like your father, it's approval you're after
Well, that's not how you find it
Do you, do you really enjoy living a life that's so hateful?
'Cause there's a hole where your soul should be
You're losing control of it
And it's really distasteful

[Verse 3]
You say you think we need to go to war
Well, you're already in one
'Cause it's people like you that need to get slew
No one wants your opinion

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you
Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you

25 June 2022

Rural addresses explained

I've driven rural roads in Minnesota for decades and have often wondered about road signs like the ones shown above.  You're out in the proverbial "middle of nowhere" on a dirt road and pass a sign for 380th Street.  An article this week in the "Curious Minnesota" section of the StarTribune explains why.
The condensed explanation is that counties created rural address systems starting in the 1980s — during the implementation of 911 — to help first responders locate people in remote areas. These rural addresses apply to unincorporated areas, and generally have no relation to streets in nearby cities. "Point zero" for these rural streets and avenues is typically a county border or central roadway... Without 911, residents called their local police or fire departments directly — assuming they knew the number — and explained their location... "It ended up with a lot of burnt foundations, let's put it that way..." 

Michael Mattson experienced the shortcomings of the old address system firsthand when he was 10 years old in 1990, living outside Roseau in northwestern Minnesota. One day during breakfast, his mother collapsed from heart failure and Mattson called for help as his father performed CPR.  Mattson told the emergency dispatcher his address: Rural Route 1, Box 10A. But they needed more information.  "So I'm describing, 'You head towards Warroad on the main highway. Then you go north at the cemetery. And then you go past the lagoon. … Turn right after the bridge.' That kind of thing," Mattson said.
I grew up in a home with mailing address "Route 5, Box 69W" and had to direct people by saying "after Highway 7 narrows from four lanes to two, turn right after the first pond..."  

Here's an example of the grid system for Waseca County in south-central Minnesota:

Residents are not always happy with the resulting addresses, but the system is effective.  Details at the link.   Top image cropped for size.

24 June 2022

Malachite and dioptase

Malachite is a green, very common secondary copper mineral with a widely variable habit. Typically it is found as crystalline aggregates or crusts, often banded in appearance, like agates. It is also often found as botryoidal clusters of radiating crystals, and as mammillary aggregates as well.

Dioptase from the Tantara Mine, Kakounde, Likasi, Shaba Congo D.R.
Both images from Geology in (here and here), where there are lots more neat specimens.

Low tide in a Kent river estuary

Chris Eggleton, In Their Natural Habitat.  A portrait of the accumulated disposal of unwanted objects within a river estuary in Kent, revealed at low tide. Earth Photo, the international photography competition, has announced its 2022 shortlist. Created by Forestry England and the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), Earth Photo celebrates photographs and videos that tell stories about the planet, its inhabitants and its future. 
More photos in a gallery at The Guardian.

Data on "mass stabbings" in the U.K. and U.S.

Data assembled in response to Marjorie Taylor Greene's* assertion to a U.K. reporter that while the U.S. has mass shootings, “You have mass stabbings, lady.”  Note the chart numbers are adjusted for population size as incidents per million residents.  More info and analysis at The Washington Post.

YouTube video shortcuts

Found on Lifehacker:
This button combo is your ticket to see the hidden list of keyboard shortcuts for your favorite websites. I first stumbled upon it while browsing YouTube: Somehow, I accidentally hit Shift + /, and, all of a sudden, I was presented with this complete collection of keyboard shortcuts for the site... It’s worth scanning the full list to see if any of these keyboard shortcuts are new to you, and whether some of them might actually be helpful during your next YouTube binge. As someone who takes screenshots on YouTube as part of his job, the frame-by-frame scanning is particularly useful...

It’s not just YouTube: Other popular websites you use every day hide keyboard shortcuts behind Shift + /... Other websites I’ve found that have these lists of keyboard shortcuts tucked away are Reddit, the Spotify web app, the WhatsApp web app, and Twitch. I’d love to know just how many websites include these hidden keyboard shortcuts as an option, but it’s difficult to find any information on the subject. Until then, the best thing to do is to experiment on the websites you frequent. It doesn’t seem to matter which browser you use (the shortcut works for me in both Chrome and Safari).

22 June 2022

Introducing "No Mow May" - with final update

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.

Addendum May 17:
We are now halfway through the no-mow month, so I thought I'd append a few pix to show how things are going.  Our south-facing front yard has clearly grown past the normal mow height, but doesn't look particularly shabby -

The sign is out by the road to inform passers-by, but to the casual viewer, it looks like a lazy person's home.  There is one clump of post-blossom daffodil leaves (intentionally planted there years ago) and a smattering of dandelions, plus some smaller weeds that I'll inventory toward the end of the month.  One no-mow neighbor has a greater abundance of dandelions -

- and on another unmown lawn the dandelions are almost confluent:

One difference may be that in previous years I have routinely added a commercial "weed and feed" application once or twice a year to eliminate broad-leaf plants like creeping charlie.  The flora is a bit different in the north-facing semishaded back lawn, where violets are appearing -

- along with ajuga and creeping charlie.   More info in a week or two.

Addendum and closure:

More violets.  Wisconsin has fourteen species of native violets, and while they are certainly lovely and beneficial to pollinators, some varieties are extremely aggressive; we have to extirpate them from some flower beds, where they crowd out other plantings.

Milkweeds always have shown up in our lawn because we have them in the flower beds, and the rhizomes extend outward in every direction.  Normally these spikes succumb to mowing; this year they get a reprieve of a few weeks.

This is the front lawn on May 23, after three weeks of not being mowed.  Shaggy, but not overtly offensive to the more conventional neighbors.

In contrast, this lawn that I drove past elsewhere in town is dominated by dandelions going to seed.  We have dandelions too, but when the yellow blossoms close, we walk around and "deadhead" the plants, pulling off what would become the seedhead,  because our goal is to feed the pollinators, not the fructivores eating seeds.

So as May came to a close we had lots of the usual clover -

- plus a variety of smaller "weeds" whose names I haven't taken time to look up:

The "escaped" milkweeds have not been of benefit to pollinators because they blossom in late June.  But they have been there for the arriving Monarchs, so the day before the neighbor teen came over to mow, we harvested all these milkweed to look for Monarch eggs and early instars. 

One of our next-door neighbors also had opted to pursue a no-mow policy in May.
For those worried about how to mow grass that is over a foot tall, I'll point out that the blades of grass are still only maybe 3-5" tall.  What towers above them is the seedhead on a tall thin spike.  At this point the seeds were not mature enough to actually fall and overseed the lawn, and those seedheads are no impediment to a standard home power mower.

The main front yard.  I don't consider it unattractive, though it is obviously unconventional.  I enjoyed being outside working on a windy day and watching the "amber fields of grain" waving in the wind.  

After mowing, June 6.  Back to a standard suburban cookie-cutter boring monoculture of grass.  No worse for the experiment, and if anything the grass seems to me to be a bit more lush

We'll be doing this again next year.   I encourage others to do the same.

21 June 2022

Sand from various sites in the Sahara

At the via, commenters argue as to whether it's really a makeup palette.

Shrinkflation and price dripping

Anyone old enough to remember previous eras of inflation will be familiar with the "shrinkflation" of products:
From toilet paper to yogurt and coffee to corn chips, manufacturers are quietly shrinking package sizes without lowering prices. It's dubbed "shrinkflation," and it's accelerating worldwide.

In the U.S., a small box of Kleenex now has 60 tissues; a few months ago, it had 65. Chobani Flips yogurts have shrunk from 5.3 ounces to 4.5 ounces. In the U.K., Nestle slimmed down its Nescafe Azera Americano coffee tins from 100 grams to 90 grams. In India, a bar of Vim dish soap has shrunk from 155 grams to 135 grams...

Dworsky began noticing smaller boxes in the cereal aisle last fall, and shrinkflation has ballooned from there. He can cite dozens of examples, from Cottonelle Ultra Clean Care toilet paper, which has shrunk from 340 sheets per roll to 312, to Folgers coffee, which downsized its 51-ounce container to 43.5 ounces but still says it will make up to 400 cups. (Folgers says it's using a new technology that results in lighter-weight beans.)

Dworsky said shrinkflation appeals to manufacturers because they know customers will notice price increases but won't keep track of net weights or small details, like the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper. Companies can also employ tricks to draw attention away from downsizing, like marking smaller packages with bright new labels that draw shoppers' eyes.

That's what Fritos did. Bags of Fritos Scoops marked "Party Size" used to be 18 ounces; some are still on sale at a grocery chain in Texas. But almost every other big chain is now advertising "Party Size" Fritos Scoops that are 15.5 ounces — and more expensive.
In the service economy, the counterpart is "price dripping" (or "drip pricing"):
Welcome to the hidden-cost economy, where sneaky fees are lurking everywhere, whether you’re buying concert tickets or plunking down your credit card at a bar, making everything much more expensive than they initially appear. It’s a retail strategy known as “price dripping.” Brands reel buyers in with a misleadingly low headline price before “dripping” an extra charge on top during the purchasing process...

Restaurants are adding “kitchen appreciation” fees, and both airlines and Uber began implementing fuel charges as oil prices skyrocket.
“Inflation has made the costs of raw materials more expensive,” Ching says. “But businesses are worried that if they raise the retail prices, that would upset consumers. Drip pricing is a ‘hidden’ way to raise prices.”... hidden costs that, in some cases, add up to more than the original price of the service or good... screenshot of an Airbnb charge that included $307.17 in cleaning, service, and occupancy fees—more than the $189 it costs to stay in the vacation rental for a single night.
The story continues at Fortune.

Cassini's final images of Saturn

"Flat closure" after mastectomy

... [there are] Facebook groups with names such as “Not Putting on a Shirt” and “Flat and Fabulous” that included many hundreds of women’s happy stories — and photos — about their choice to have an “aesthetic flat closure,’’ the term used by the National Cancer Institute starting in 2020, and forgo breast reconstruction.

So Attai did her own survey of close to 1,000 women who’d had a single or double mastectomy without reconstruction. Published last year in Annals of Surgical Oncology, it found that close to three-quarters of the women said they were satisfied with the outcome... 

While many women still opt for breast reconstruction, as the numbers from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons make clear, Champagne and others engaged with the issue of flat closure tick off a list of reasons, including increased awareness of the option, for what cancer doctors and surgeons say is a growing interest in going flat...

“A breast cancer diagnosis can be particularly overwhelming because there are so many decisions to be made in a short period of time including choices of doctors, a treatment plan and the woman’s post-mastectomy chest,” says Attai, in an email. There’s more awareness now that the process of reconstruction has risks. “Women who opt for reconstruction, whether a breast implant or their own tissue (called autologous reconstruction) could face multiple surgeries, post-surgery recovery, a 10 percent risk of infection which can get in the way of a chemotherapy or radiation schedule, and, occasionally, implant recalls and removals.

For women who want to do reconstruction, Attai says, they often feel the effort and risk is worth it. “But for others, it isn’t.”
More information at The Washington Post.

20 June 2022


Human urine... is full of the same nutrients that plants need to flourish. It has a lot more, in fact, than Number Two, with almost none of the pathogens...

At first, collecting their urine in a jug was “a little sloshy,” Ms. Lucy said. But she was a nurse and he was a preschool teacher; pee didn’t scare them. They went from dropping off a couple of containers every week or so at an organizer’s home to installing large tanks at their own house that get professionally pumped out...

Toilets, in fact, are by far the largest source of water use inside homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Wiser management could save vast amounts of water, an urgent need as climate change worsens drought in places like the American West...

Chemical fertilizer is far from sustainable. The commercial production of ammonia, which is mainly used for fertilizer, uses fossil fuels in two ways. First, as the source of hydrogen, which is needed for the chemical process that converts nitrogen from the air into ammonia, and second as fuel to generate the intense heat required. By one estimate, ammonia manufacturing contributes 1 to 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Phosphorus, another key nutrient, is mined from rock, with an ever dwindling supply.
More info at the New York Times.

Two podcasts worth listening to

First, from This American Life, the story of The Synchronized Swimmers.
At the age of 17, competitive swimmer Lynne Cox had already accomplished a lot in the open ocean. She’d set two world records crossing the English Channel. But it wasn’t until a practice swim one morning that year in California that she did something we’d never heard of any human doing in the water. Phoebe Judge, host of the “This Is Love” podcast, tells her story. (14 minutes)
Next, part of a Radiolab episode entitled Animal Minds.  The story starts at the 5:30 mark and ends at the 17-minute mark.  It's quite memorable.  (I would suggest ignoring the subsequent interview with some animal psychologist who seems to say there's no way we can understand what a whale is thinking).

18 June 2022

First black swallowtails of the year

This one eclosed late this afternoon; when I photographed him, he was still fanning his wings to dry and stiffen them. (Males are characterized by prominence of the yellow pattern on the forewing and subtlety of the blue spots on the hindwing above the eyespots).

This one is a little small in body size, as is typical for the late-season ones which overwinter here as a chrysalis (the caterpillars often don't get very fat in the fall before the cold weather forces them to pupate), but the outstanding beauty of the wings is wonderfully characteristic of the species - click to enlarge to bigger-than-screen size.

He will spend the night on our screen porch, then warm himself in the sunshine before heading out for whatever adventures await. Five more chrysalids from last autumn's batch are still waiting to hatch.

Reposted from last month to add a photo of the latest one to eclose:

The color patter on the underside of the wings is truly remarkable and not usually visible when you see them soaring around your garden.
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