09 December 2023

Ages of the "founding fathers" on July 4, 1776

Marquis de Lafayette, 18
James Monroe, 18
Gilbert Stuart, 20
Aaron Burr, 20
Alexander Hamilton, 21
Betsy Ross, 24
James Madison, 25
Thomas Jefferson, 33
John Adams, 40
Paul Revere, 41
George Washington, 44
Samuel Adams, 53
Benjamin Frankllin, 70

Via Kottke, where there is a fascinating story about 80-year-old combatant-but-not-founding-father Samuel Whittemore.

Where you fit in the world

An old (2022) Pearls Before Swine, but still relevant.

World championship jigsaw puzzle competition

"Minnesota is a powerhouse in this rapidly growing cold-weather sport [speed jigsaw]. Top-ranked players come from here. The biggest competition in the country is held here. And the sport's national organization is based here...

Puzzling, it seems, thrives in places where people spend a lot of time indoors... It's no coincidence that the biggest jigsaw competition in the country, the long-running St. Paul Winter Carnival Jigsaw Puzzle Contest, draws more than 1,200 competitors to downtown St. Paul in the dead of winter... The USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association put on a national championship held last year in San Diego. And, in 2019, a World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship was started in Spain."
More information at the StarTribune.  The video I've embedded above is full-length coverage (four and a half hours) of the final rounds of the world championship; the first part covers the individual competition, which involved solving this 500 piece Ravensburger puzzle -

- shown in a cropped screencap from the video. I have tried to find a copy of this puzzle to purchase, but have had no success looking on eBay and via Google.  I did, however, find and purchase this 1000-piece puzzle which was used for the pairs competition -

- and have set it aside for a wintry day.  

The video at the top of this post is way too long for most people.  I spent probably 45 miutes speed-browsing through it.  If you would like to see some very happy puzzlers, skip to the 39:00 mark to see the winning competitor (then continue for a few minutes to see others), then skip again to the 4:10:00 mark for the finish of the pairs competition.

Here are links for the USA Jigsaw Puzzle Association and to "Wicker Kittens" - a lighthearted look at Minnesota jigsaw enthusiasts (it begins with a person who mounts completed puzzles on the walls and ceiling of his home, and includes a delightful moment (05:10) of two Minnesota girls simultaneously saying "Oh, Yah.")

"Motion extraction"

This video explores one of the frontiers of digital video manipulation.  Via Neatorama, where there is a brief textual explanation.

06 December 2023

"Ditzel" explained

When I sold this 1902 KEVII official stamp on eBay, I described it as having a "bold full-date upright Liverpool cancel" and mentioned to the winning bidder that it had a "ditzel" that might be removed to enhance the cosmetic appearance, though it wouldn't add to the substantial monetary value.

The new owner (in Glasgow) messaged me back his pleasure re the stamp but asked for clarification on the word "ditzel," which was new to him.  This surprised me, as I have used the term my entire adult life, so I did some research.  I couldn't find it in my OED, nor in my Random House dictionary.  Thence to the internet, where I found this in a StackExchange post about orthography, asking whether "ditzel" is a "real word":
"When I was a Cardiology fellow at UMass Medical Center, there was a technician who would use a certain word to mean "a little". It sounded like /a ditzle/. I never asked her how it was spelled and later when I tried to look for the spelling in dictionaries, I never found it. The context would be something like: "Can you see any regurgitation on the screen?", "Just a "ditzle", meaning "very little"." ...

[a reply]:  "Although not found in Dorland's Medical Dictionary, the term ditzel is universally recognized among radiologists as a very small nodule found in the lung. ... The origins of this word are obscure."  [Mundsen RF, Hess KR. “Ditzels” on Chest CT: Survey of Members of the Society of Thoracic Radiology. AJR 2001; 176:1363-1369.]
Since I spent 30 professional years examining chest xrays with radiologists, that may be where I picked up the term, but it's not unique to radiology.  Again, from the StackExchange post:
"In surgery we use the term "ditzel" to mean "a little nothing" or a piece of small, inconsequential tissue. For example, surgeon wipes instrument on sponge, leaving small globule of tissue. Nurse asks "Is this a specimen?", surgeon replies "No, just a ditzel. " Meaning it's nothing, junk, unknown and can be ignored."
I passed that observation on to an experienced pathologist, who said that in pathology laboratories, specimens are occasionally sorted into categories for examination:  surgical specimens, small biopsies, and the incidental "ditzels."

So, it is a "real word," in the category of jargon.
Jargon or technical language is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation (that is, a certain trade, profession, vernacular or academic field), but any ingroup can have jargon.
Lots more interesting information, and many examples (with links to jargon glossaries), at that Wikipedia link.

Question for readers: in your experience, does the term "ditzel" extend beyond the medical field to other professional or technical areas?  Just curious.

Transverse leukonychia

Copied in toto without permission from the New England Journal of Medicine.


One image from a Guardian photoessay about environmental destruction in Senegal.
Dakar’s nine-mile-long Hann Bay used to be known as one of West Africa’s most beautiful, lined with traditional fishing villages, villas and tourist attractions. But for the last 20 years it has been at the centre of the city’s industrialisation, with 80% of the city’s industry nearby. Today it is one of Dakar’s most polluted areas, with canals spilling raw sewage and chemicals on to the beach and into the sea.
Photo credit: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

The people who live in a volcanic crater

The video above is rather interesting.  It began when someone browsing Google Earth spotted a geographic anomaly in Madagascar and wondered who lived in this very isolated location.  What is interesting is how he went about collecting information and eventually recruiting a crew of locals with cameras and drone to investigate.  It's a long (24 minute) video which I speed-browsed using the video progress bar and my keyboard right arrow, but I stopped frequently to admire various aspects of the study.  I'll put a spoiler below these screencaps for those who don't have any time to spare (it's too bad our modern world is so packed with thingstodo that we can't find time to linger over interesting things, because there is so much to wonder at in this world).

The inhabitants are modern-day Madagascar farmers who discovered fertile soil and abundant water in this old caldera.

A "centerline indicator" above a urinal

This is a Canadian accessibility requirement in men's public bathrooms. Centreline indicator The centreline of a urinal shall be indicated by a vertical element that (a) is centred on the urinal; (b) extends to a height of at least 1300 mm from the floor, but never less than 150 mm above the upper urinal rim; and (c) is at least 50 mm wide; (d) is raised at least 3 mm from the wall surface; and (e) is colour-contrasted not less than 70% with the back wall.
Discussion thread at the Ottawa subreddit.  Photo via whatisthisthing.  Some relevant discussion (and a lot of snark) at each link.

WI Republicans: "libraries must tell parents what books their children are checking out"

"Wisconsin senators in the Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families Committee debated over SB597 and SB598 which would require public and school libraries to notify parents within 24 hours anytime their kids under the age of 16 check out materials.

[One state senator] believes this bill will not stop curious kids.  “A child doesn’t have to check material out at the library,” Senator Johnson said. “If there’s something that they really want to read and they don’t want their parents to know, they could just sit in the library and read it without having to check it out at all.”..

“A parent who has signed for a child and has access to the child’s card can check to see what that child has checked out at any time,” Elias said. Although the bill is in its early stages, librarians could not help but wonder about the cost. “It is a pretty significant impact on libraries and again has an undetermined fiscal impact for us in terms of reprogramming all of our computer systems.”
The bills are not likely to pass, since Democratic Governor Tony Evers is a former educator, and will likely veto them.  Here's some additional commentary/analysis:
When asked by committee members, the senators denied that the bills were intended to restrict or ban books. But those are exactly the concerns the bills – and others like them – have raised during the last legislative cycle. Since 2020, conservative parents and school officials have taken a keen interest in books that feature LGBTQ topics or characters, certain aspects of American history including  slavery and Native American genocide and other social justice topics. Conservative organizing has driven a wave of book purges in school districts, banning, restricting, or relocating hundreds of titles.

In Wisconsin, multiple school districts have seen those efforts guided by a list of “inappropriate” books compiled by parent groups. Sen. Jesse James (R-Altoona), who chairs the committee alongside vice chair Sen. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton), was provided a version of this list when he was still an Assembly representative. James was sent the list by a parent who said she’d found sexually inappropriate books, as well as material teaching “our kids to hate cops and their white skin.” The parent suggested passing a law to remove protections for librarians so they could be  held criminally liable for providing inappropriate reading materials to children. James and other Republican lawmakers worked on drafts of legislation that would expose library and school staff to felonies for providing “inappropriate” or “obscene” material to young students. Dittrich and Quinn stressed that their bills are not intended to persecute librarians or teachers...

“How hypocritical that Wisconsin Republicans, the party of ‘small government’, want to ban books and know what every individual is checking out from the library,” said Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard. “This Orwellian-inspired overreach is chilling and intimidates our librarians and educators under the facade of parental rights. Senate Democrats do not support these GOP efforts to stifle learning and limit access to information.”

Minnesota "Name a snowplow" contest resumes

"The Minnesota Department of Transportation's "Name a Snowplow" contest is back for the third straight year.

The agency is accepting name suggestions for the next 10 days. Last year, MnDOT received more than 11,000 suggestions after putting out a call for the public to help name eight snowplows — one for each district in the state. "Betty Whiteout" was the runaway winner.

MnDOT was the first transportation department in the country to launch a snowplow naming contest — an effort to bring some levity to winter, Meyer said. Agency officials had seen an article in "Roadshow" explaining how Scotland names its entire snowplow fleet and posts maps showing their locations. The country calls the vehicles "gritters," the article said, which led to witty handles such as "Gritney Spears" and "Gritty Gritty Bang Bang.""
More information at the StarTribune.  Entries can be submitted to the DOT here.  "Gosh darn it, nothing vulgar please."  And politics-related names are verboten.

Addendum:  Here are the gritters of Scotland (hat tip for link to reader Marge):

Addendum:  The results are in (hat tip to Miss C for tracking down the results):

Reposted because the contest is open again for the new winter season.  Anyone (not just people lucky enough to live in Minnesota) can submit suggestions using this entry form, but remember no politics and "gosh darn it, nothing vulgar please."  And for the benefit of those in warmer climes who conflate snowplows with humble road graders, I'll offer this photo of what is being named:

03 December 2023

Hilarious ASMR parody

Sadly, I've never learned how to embed a TikTok video, so the above is a composite I created from screencaps.  The one on the right shows the outreach vehicle of the "Tiger Van" used by the Como Zoo and Observatory in Minnesota.  The screencap on the left is from a luxury vehicle (Mercedes) video posted at mycarspace.  It's a bit odd because it is an ASMR video rather than a conventional sales promotion video.  ASMRs are designed to create a "pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli" (see my old post from 2018 about ASMR in movies).

With that introduction I'm sure you will enjoy the parody.  I can't embed it, but you can view the original this link.  Go fullscreen and be sure to unmute.

Story found in the "Minnesota Weird" section of Bring Me The News.

Minnesota in 1862 as a "distant mirror" for Gaza in 2023

This historic photo shows a concentration camp for the Dakota at Fort Snelling in 1862

An extended excerpt from an op-ed piece in the StarTribune:
"My 2013 "Account of the 1862 Dakota-US War" in the American Indian Culture and Research Journal was not a comparative study. But rereading it now, I am struck by how much that long-ago war in Minnesota resembled today's Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Long before their respective uprisings, the Dakota and the Palestinians had been forced off most of their land and confined to narrow strips where they could not make a living — the Dakota were limited to a 20-mile-wide strip on either side of the Minnesota River, the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. and Israeli governments both allowed settlers to carve up additional land reserved for Dakota and Palestinians — on reservations in the Dakota case in the West Bank in Palestine.

Most Dakota and Palestinians were not militants. But those who were militant attacked at opportune moments when Americans and Israelis were distracted by internecine conflicts — Americans by their Civil War, Israelis by strife and protests over Benjamin Netanyahu's proposed restructuring of the judicial system.

Dakota warriors murdered, raped and/or mutilated some 500 Minnesotans; Hamas, 1,200 Israelis. Dakota and Hamas fighters took significant numbers of women and children hostage, whom they used as bargaining chips.

American and Israeli military responses were disproportionate. In the wake of the Dakota and Hamas attacks, many more Dakota and Palestinians died than did Americans and Israelis.

The histories leading up to both wars were also comparable. Israel was founded by Zionists, the first American colony by Puritans. Both thought of themselves as God's chosen people arrived in a promised land. Nineteenth-century Scandinavian and German Lutherans who flocked to Minnesota and the Dakotas in search of farmland were only one of the successive waves of immigration that fueled westward expansion and pushed the boundaries of "God's country," along with the Indians, farther and farther west..."
Image credit: Minnesota Historical Society

Re the term "distant mirror" (an outstanding book, BTW).

Comments closed and previous ones deleted.  I was trying to focus on 1862, not 2023, but the subject matter is such that it brings out all the trolls and latent hate.

An interesting mathematical paradox

I got it wrong - and so will you.

There is no yellow circle in this image

It's an optical illusion resulting from normal subtractive color mixing.  I double-checked by opening the image in a separate tab, then enlarged the image to the max and took a screencap of the center of the "yellow":

Via Neatorama, where you can access some discussion and source information.
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