02 December 2021

Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, Edinburgh


Excerpts from the home page of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club:
At its first meeting in Edinburgh on 27 May 1908, a committee was appointed and a constitution agreed with the main aim to:
' … bring together Ladies who are lovers of mountain-climbing, and to encourage mountaineering in Scotland, in winter as well as summer.'
The ladies of the climbing club enjoyed all the trappings of their status that allowed them to indulge in such leisure activities. Married to lawyers, doctors and other middle-class professions, often with housekeepers and servants they had the leisure time to enjoy outdoor pursuits. A luxury relatively few Edwardian women had.
Video from the National Library of Scotland.

A motley crew

A neighbor dropped off this carton of locally-sourced eggs for us this morning.  They provide a nice example of the proper use of the adjective "motley."  They also have the advantage of being unwashed - which gives them an extended unrefrigerated shelf life (because washing removes a protective film on eggs, potentially facilitating the entry of oxygen or bacteria).  They were also quite tasty, as judged by the first three. 

The pandemic-induced shutdown of restaurant dining has been stressful for huge numbers of farmers worldwide.   I would encourage all readers of TYWKIWDBI to support your local farmers by purchasing produce directly from them - at the farm when possible, or for those embedded deep in urban settings, by visiting local farmers' markets.  A well-run farmers' market will have totally fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, salad fixings, veggies, eggs, honey, soaps and craft items and such.

I probably should do a blog post with photos from our local one.  (done)

Reposted from 2020 to share a recent image of impressive variation in the color of chicken eggs:


I agree with the comment at the via that the image is probably oversaturated, but it's still an awesome array of colors.

Transparent skin graft


First time I've ever seen a procedure like this.  Interesting view of forearm tendons.
"...they use the forearm “flap” based on the radial artery to reconstruct the cancer defect in the head and neck (sometimes tongue, sometime floor of mouth, etc) and hook it into an artery and vein in the neck. This allows for durable coverage that includes skin and fat in the flap. It can withstand effects of radiation and fill in the hole which a simple skin graft cannot. A skin graft from the thigh is then used to cover the forearm defect."
Limited and fragmented discussion at the via.

A bell pepper exhibiting "parthenocarpy"


My wife found this while preparing one of her favorite vegetables; she says she sees the phenomenon not infrequently.  As best I can tell from a quick search, it's called "internal proliferation" and is a form of parthenocarpy ("natural or artificially induced production of fruit without fertilization of ovules. The fruit is therefore seedless").  I'm not sure why the little pepper is green while the larger one is red - presumably from lack of sunlight as a result of the difference in their ages (tx, John).

Reposted from 2012 to add this time-lapse video of the growth of a bell pepper (via Kottke):

An eye-opening graph of world coal consumption

"The two decades of China’s WTO membership have seen the country enjoy economic growth that has been mostly coal-powered. For many reasons, coal is a cheap way to produce energy. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has been trying to shift to other forms of energy, which tend to be more expensive.

China now has an appalling pollution problem, and probably wants to stop burning so much coal. Its recent energy crisis is a sign of attempts to shift away from coal reliance. That leads to an uncomfortable conclusion: either China keeps polluting itself (and the rest of the world), or it doesn’t and other emerging countries do so instead. Or, none of them keep burning coal. In all these scenarios, that thereby increases the prices of the goods China sells to everyone else. 

You could argue that this is a price worth paying in the battle against climate change. And the levels of pollution in China’s big cities are horrifying; the leadership would be remiss if if didn’t try to do something. But the bottom line is that the rest of the world needs to get used to monitoring China as a potential source of inflation, not deflation."
Text and image excerpted from Points of Return by John Authers in his Bloomberg newsletter.

30 November 2021

Today is (or is not) Opposite Day

Opposite Day is a game usually played by children. One can declare that today is Opposite Day (sometimes retroactively) to indicate something which will be said, or has just been said should be understood opposite to its original meaning (similar to the practice of crossed fingers to automatically nullify promises).

An analysis of this concept would conclude that Opposite day causes a self-referential paradox. In theory, the statement "it is opposite day", if uttered on opposite day, should mean "it is not opposite day". However, the statement "it is not opposite day" also does not clearly communicate the meaning of "it is opposite day", since it must first be communicated that it is opposite day before the statement can be interpreted this way. Therefore, there is no unambiguous way to communicate that the current day is opposite day.
First I've heard of this, but here's a description from 2001.  A google search suggests that it is celebrated on January 25.  Or not...

A sampling from Pearls Before Swine


The full series can be accessed at GoComics (it has such a great title)  

(p.s. - it's barrels all the way down)

29 November 2021

CSI, nineteenth-century style

"A short distance from the village of Bertha, Todd County, was one of those burned out meadows on which grass had been cut for many years and no one who had travelled over its smooth surface ever thought that it was the burial place of a human being.

After the turf had been burned off, there lay the scattered bones of a man.  Among them was a silver watch and the remains of a jackknife... 

A short distance from where the cabin had stood was a tree on which were scars as if it had been cut into with an axe.

When the remains were found, the Clines remembered about... the scarred tree and went there and cut into the scars to see how many years had elapsed since they were made.  They found that the scars had been caused by some person cutting bullets out of the tree in order to save the lead, as was a common practice in those early days, and they also found that there were 42 annual rings of growth over the scars, showing that those bullets had been cut from that tree about the year 1850.  The fact that his watch was with his remains indicated that he had not been murdered but why did he die on the meadow instead of in his cabin?  The conclusion that young Cline and I arrived at was that he had a place were he obtained water dug in the meadow and while very ill had gone there to quench his thirst and had been unable to return to his cabin and had breathed out his life all alone on the turf."
Excerpted from Tracks and Trails: or Incidents in the Life of a Minnesota Territorial Pioneer, by Captain "Nate" Dally, Owner and Captain of the "Leila D" Steamboat, the First Steamboat Built and Operated on Leech Lake by a Private Individual.  Published by the Pilot-Independent, Walker MN, 1931.  Reprinted 1994.

How to use a horse's tail to catch fish

"When we started from Illinois, father had, so he thought, provided himself with all that he would need in a new country, but he had forgotten fishing lines, though he had a plenty of hooks, but the matter of not having lines did not block him, for after supper he went out and pulled a bunch of long hair from a horses tail and after soaking it in warm water for a short time, he stripped up his pants and drawers to bare his leg on which to roll the horse hair and in a few minutes he had made a line twelve or fourteen feet long and stout enough to hold any ordinary fish."
Excerpted from Tracks and Trails: or Incidents in the Life of a Minnesota Territorial Pioneer, by Captain "Nate" Dally, Owner and Captain of the "Leila D" Steamboat, the First Steamboat Built and Operated on Leech Lake by a Private Individual.  Published by the Pilot-Independent, Walker MN, 1931.  Reprinted 1994.

26 November 2021

Tibetan yak

Image cropped for size from the one at the via.

A compilation of rare and unusual baseball plays

Said to be the "world's largest freeway"


The Katy freeway (Interstate 10) in Houston "was expanded to as many as 20 total lanes in Houston, but due to induced demand, travel times along the highway within the city increased as much as 30 percent."  Comments about the road at the via.

That photo reminded me of this one, of "Detroit before and after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956":

Should you NOT point at a rainbow ?


Many cultures around the world consider it improper - or even dangerous - to point at a rainbow.  Excerpts from an article in Atlas Obscura:
He would soon amass evidence for the rainbow taboo—in some form or another—in 124 cultures. The prohibition turned up in North America, among the Atsugewi of northern California and the Lakota of the northern plains; in remote parts of Australia and isolated islands in Melanesia; among the Nyabwa of Ivory Coast and the Kaiwá of Brazil. At one time it was present in Europe, too: one of the Grimm brothers noted it in his book on German mythology. The belief was not found in every culture, according to Blust’s search, but it was present globally, across all inhabited regions.

There was also more to the taboo than the vague idea that pointing to rainbows is bad. Blust found that it often came bundled with specific ideas about what would happen if you violated the taboo, ideas that varied from culture to culture. Most commonly, your finger would suffer the consequences: it might become bent or paralyzed, fall off, wither, rot, or swell, or develop warts, ulcers, or maggots. Less commonly—such as in parts of New Guinea and Australia—the ill effects would befall your mother. In most cases, it was specifically pointing with the index finger that was prohibited. It was fine to draw attention to a rainbow using your head, lips, nose, or tongue, or by forming your hand in a less “pointy” shape, such as a fist. A final recurring idea was that, should you accidentally point to a rainbow, there were remedies. You could wet the offending digit; or put it into a bodily cavity like your mouth, anus, or belly button; or, according to the Javanese version of the taboo, plunge it into a pile of buffalo dung.
Continue reading at the link.  Photo credit Eric Rolph at English Wikipedia.

From Middle English, from Latin īris, from Ancient Greek ἶρις (îris, “rainbow”), from Proto-Indo-European *wey-ro- (“a twist, thread, cord, wire”), from *weh₁y- (“to turn, twist, weave, plait”). Cognate to English wire.  

25 November 2021

Thinking of refugees on Thanksgiving


If you have nothing else to be thankful for on this day, be thankful that you are not a refugee - political refugee, war refugee, climate refugee, whatever.  I fully understand that some migrants are economic opportunists seeking to game the system, but the vast majority are helpless victims of circumstances beyond their control - from wildfires, floods, droughts, ethnic cleansing, national geopolitical policies, and wars.

The top embedded image is from the border between Poland and Belarus, where the migrants are political pawns in an autocrat's power struggle with the EU.  They have been displaced from their homes, have only what they can carry, lack food and shelter and are facing an oncoming winter entirely at the mercy of strangers.

Here's an old photo of a Syrian refugee child:

“I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon,” photographer Osman Sağırlı told the BBC. “İ realized she was terrified after I took it, and looked at the picture, because she bit her lips and raised her hands. Normally kids run away, hide their faces or smile when they see a camera.”
It's tempting to succumb to "compassion fatigue" when reading about the never-ending world crises, or to consider oneself safe from geopolitical conflicts, ignoring the potential of becoming a climate refugee.

Tigers in the United States


Excerpts from an interesting article in the December 2019 issue of National Geographic:
My visit to the Ringling center with photographer Steve Winter was just one stop during a two-year investigation into why there are likely more tigers living in cages in the U.S. than remain in the wild... we found that most tigers in this country live in small zoos and animal attractions - known generally in the industry as "roadside" zoos - where care standards can vary widely, in some cases endangering the animals in them and the humans who visit them...

You can get a USDA license to exhibit or breed gerbils - and then exhibit or breed any animal you want, including big cats...

Tiger cubs are a gold mine, especially white ones... A quick photo op or five-minute cuddle runs $10 to $100.  A three-hour zoo tour with cub handling can run $700 a person.  Guests often are told they're helping to save wild tigers.  They leave happy and post selfies on social media.

What they don't know is the cubs' history or future.  Most are born in tiger mills where females churn out two or three litters a year, compared withone litter every two years in the wild.  Cubs are pulled from their mothers soon after birth... When they're just a few weeks old, the cubs go to work, sometimes passed around for up to 10 hours a day.  The profits can be enormous...

In 2003 Illinois corrections officer William Kapp was convicted for his role in shooting 18 tigers and leopards in their cages and brokering the sale of their meat and skins to buyers.  The same year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators found 90-some dead animals - mostly tigers, including 58 cubs - in a freezer when they raided the home of John Weinhart, owner of Tiger Rescue, a facility in Colton, California, that billed itself as a sanctuary for animals that had worked in the entertainment industry...
The source article is behind a paywall, but the magazine can almost certainly be checked out from your local library.  A gallery of photos from the article is posted at the Natural History Museum's recognition of Steve Winter as their Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
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