26 January 2022

Sachatamia ilex

Photo credit Minor Torres, via.

Yews thousands of years old in Britain

The embedded image is a screencap from a brief video at the BBC.
Trees believed to pre-date the pyramids are in danger of being lost forever unless they are given special legal protections, campaigners have said.

The UK is home to the world's largest collection of ancient yew trees, with some estimated by researchers to be as old as 5,000 years old, such as Powys' Defynnog Yew.
I had no idea yews could reach ages similar to that of giant sequoias.  You learn something every day.

It's amazing how popular birding is

"Excited birders have crammed into a Maryland park, braving rain and dismally low temperatures, to witness the painted bunting, a brightly coloured bird that usually reserves its elan for the warmer climes of Florida... On Saturday, more than 80 cars were still in line to get into the park shortly before its sundown closure..."

"The bitter fury of a disillusioned believer"

I have pretty much stopped adding posts to the Trump category of this blog, but I'll make an exception today to offer some excerpts from a fascinating New York Times op-ed detailing a total about-face by Ann Coulter.
No one wants Trump,” she asserted in a column last week. “He’s fading faster than Sarah Palin did — and she was second place on a losing presidential ticket.”..

Ms. Coulter’s anti-Trump bile is not entirely new and carries the bitter fury of a disillusioned believer. While an early and enthusiastic MAGA convert — during the 2016 campaign Ms. Coulter cheekily proclaimed herself ready to die for her candidate and penned a cringey hagiography titled “In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!” — she began souring on his presidency pretty quickly over his failure to make good on his more draconian immigration promises...

Her critiques of Mr. Trump have included calling him “a shallow, lazy ignoramus,” “a complete moron,” “a blithering idiot” and “a lout.” She now considers his entire presidency a flop. “Trump accomplished everything he was ever going to accomplish at 2 a.m.” on election night in 2016, she emailed me last week. “The best thing that could have happened to the Republican Party (and the country) would have been for him to be vaporized at the moment he was announcing his victory..."
The column continues by detailing Coulter's shift to supporting Florida governor Ron DeSantis.  Quite an interesting read.

We're living in the "information age"

Today I learned that Nepal has rhinos

If someone had shown me the photo above out of context and asked me to guess the location, I would have spent hours guessing without correctly identifying it as Nepal - a country I associate with sherpas and yetis, forgetting that the lowlands are at a subtropical latitude.
Before the 1950s, as many as 1,000 rhinos roamed the grasslands and forests of Nepal. But by 1965, rampant hunting, poaching and changes in land use had brought the species close to extinction in the country. Then, the national park was established in 1973 and thanks to concerted conservation efforts, the rhino population began to bounce back [752 in 2021].

Today, Chitwan national park has the second-largest concentration of one-horned rhinos after India’s Kaziranga national park, with the two parks accounting for 70% of the species’ global population.
More at The Guardian.

A new David Attenborough series on BBC

The five-part series is airing on BBC now and will be broadcast in the U.S. by PBS later this summer.  Seven videos with excerpts are posted at Kottke.

Word for the day: wishcycling

Explained at the Washington Post
Wishcycling is putting something in the recycling bin and hoping it will be recycled, even if there is little evidence to confirm this assumption...

Pro-recycling messaging from governments, corporations and environmentalists promoted and reinforced recycling behavior. This was especially true for plastics that had resin identification codes inside a triangle of “chasing arrows,” indicating that the item was recyclable — even though that was usually far from the truth. Only resins #1 (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) and #2 (high-density polyethylene, or HDPE) are relatively easy to recycle and have viable markets. The others are hard to recycle, so some jurisdictions don’t even collect them...

Contaminating the waste stream with material that is not actually recyclable makes the sorting process more costly because it requires extra labor. Wishcycling also damages sorting systems and equipment and depresses an already fragile trading market.

Huge waste management companies and small cities and towns have launched educational campaigns on this issue. Their mantra is “When in doubt, throw it out.” In other words, place only material that truly can be recycled in your bin. This message is hard for many environmentalists to hear, but it cuts costs for recyclers and local governments.

22 January 2022

Before the lightning strike

Both of the brothers survived.

"[the top photo] was taken by his 15-year-old sister, Mary, using an old Kodak Instamatic camera, McQuilken said. He and his siblings were hiking the granite dome. When they reached the top to enjoy the view, someone noticed that their hair was standing on end.

“At the time, we thought this was humorous,” McQuilken recalled. “I took a photo of Mary and Mary took a photo of Sean and me. I raised my right hand into the air and the ring I had on began to buzz so loudly that everyone could hear it.”

The rest of the story is at NBC News.   The original report by the persons involved is in Social Positive via the Wayback Machine.

Wi-Fi extender

I don't typically do product endorsements (and never for money), but I want to share my experience with the item above.

Our house has a relatively "dead zone" for Wi-Fi.  The router is placed optimally for servicing the computers, but the television's location results in intermittent loss of signal ("Wi-Fi not connected" message interruptions repeatedly while watching a movie).  

This extender was relatively cheap ($25).  It came with instructions that included downloading a program and keying in various codes, but blessedly there was an "alternate" method:  plug this in near your router, wait for the light to stop blinking, then plug it in closer to the dead spot.  Problem solved in ten minutes.

"The button"

I'm sure this is a repost, but I couldn't find my original, so I'm entering it again with a more searchable title.

This news gives me the shivers

The Federal Reserve took a key step in weighing the creation of its own digital currency, a move it said could help ensure the U.S. dollar’s dominance as the central bank grapples with fast-growing private cryptocurrencies and coins issued by other nations.

The central bank made no firm conclusions on whether issuing such a currency was prudent and in any case said it doesn’t intend to proceed without support from the White House and Congress -- so it’s not likely a U.S. digital dollar will be issued anytime soon. But the 35-page discussion paper issued Thursday on a government-backed coin, known as a central bank digital currency or CBDC, marks the Fed’s most significant action yet as it seeks to dive deeper into digital assets. 

“The introduction of a CBDC would represent a highly significant innovation in American money,” the Fed said in the paper.
More at Bloomberg.

Morse code schematic

I remember learning these letters as a Cub Scout in the 1950s.  One of my grandfathers had been a telegraph operator for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and  I believe at the time I viewed Morse Code as a useful skill to have as an adult. 

I can still spell my name.

Image via

Robot vacuum cleaner escapes from captivity

As reported by the BBC:
"A robot vacuum cleaner made a break for freedom after giving staff the slip at a Travelodge hotel.

The automated cleaner failed to stop at the front door of the hotel in Orchard Park in Cambridge on Thursday, and was still on the loose the following day.

Staff said it just kept going and "could be anywhere" while well-wishers on social media hoped the vacuum enjoyed its travels, as "it has no natural predators" in the wild...

While some readers joked about the robot's adventures, one feared for its safety in the great outdoors, pointing out that "nature abhors a vacuum".

However, much to everyone's relief, the device was found nestled under a hedge on Friday afternoon by a (human) hotel cleaner sprucing up the front drive."

19 January 2022

Sterling silver tin can

Available from the Everyday Objects collection at Tiffany & Co. for $1,135 (engraving extra).   It's more expensive than the sterling silver golf tee ($205), but less than sterling silver dog bowl ($3,000).

No editorial comment from me.  This is part of the world we live in.  Via Harper's.
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