18 October 2021

A merkin salesman (1860)

Merkins are wigs for the pubic area, with origins dating back at least to the 15th century, when pubic hair was sometimes shaved to combat pubic lice; merkins were also worn to cover dermatologic evidence of syphilis.  Via.

Modern-day merkins can be viewed in a Google Image search (mostly safe for work, depending on where you work), with subsections for Hollywood, burlesque, etc (even a face-hugger variant).

And for completeness of "things you wouldn't know," here are instructions on how to attach (and remove) a merkin.

I don't know why this happens

The leaves are from a milkweed plant in our garden.  Asymmetry in foliage coloration is certainly not rare, but these examples were particularly striking.  Perhaps the difference starts with leaf morphogenesis, with a cell dividing and the two halves following different clocks, or maybe it's a phenomenon that is a result of the vascular pattern.  It's nothing important - just as oddity AFAIK.

I'm heading back to the Arboretum later this week.  Prime leaf-peeping season has begun.

Why some are now referring to the coronavirus as "red Covid"

The coronavirus pandemic initially manifested itself in the United States in "blue" (Democratic) districts - especially inner-city New York.   Some pundits have offered that fact as a reason for the then-Republican administration's slow response to the pandemic.  Skipping forward a year we find a quite different demographic pattern.
And as a result, current mortalilty rates from Covid are substantially higher in "red" states:

At the New York Times source, the data is broken down to the county level, where the differences are even more stark.  And it's getting worse:

There's additional discussion and graphs at the Gallup organization website.  They note that a large percentage of Americans frankly do not understand the risks of disease vs. vaccination.

A walking tour of the Giza Plateau

A lengthy (100 minute) tour, quite nicely done in terms of image quality and absence of any of the inane audio commentary that accompanies so many similar videos.  I would have liked to have seen more closeup detail of the Sphinx, which is only visible at some distance in the closing ten minutes.  Via Kottke.

I did find this screencap particularly interesting:

The hole is an entrance to an underground chamber.  Above it, prominently displayed on a plinth, is a stone in the shape of the state of Wisconsin.  

Over the millennia the Door County peninsula has weathered away, and perhaps Napoleon's soldier's damaged the Indianhead area when they were vandalizing the Sphinx, but it is clear that the ancient Egyptians must have had extensive knowledge of Wisconsin, perhaps on their trips to the Keweenaw Peninsula to mine copper ore before returning down the Mississippi to the Gulf - leaving behind some small pyramids at Aztalan State Park.

Or maybe they just came for the cheese curds.

La Palma home with mountain view

From The Guardian today (Saul Santos/AP) comes this photo of a home on La Palma, where the volcano has been erupting.  

That's not lava - just ash.  Sort of a Canary Islands equivalent of a Swiss chalet covered with snow.   I suspect the ash will be so caustic that a simple cleanup with broom and dustpan will not be sufficient.  And I feel sad for all the wild critters that would not have been able to escape.

I seem to be encountering problems embedding images - (update: solved, I think)

I just noticed the problem today; not sure how long it has been going on.

Normally (historically) every image I embed has been clickable and enlarges to supersize.  Now I'm seeing photos that not only fail to enlarge, but even appear smaller when one clicks on them.

The post below this one has a NASA image composed of photos of the moon.  When I click on the photo, instead of enlarging to view details, I see this tiny image:

I don't know WTF is going on - whether the problem is with my computer or Blogspot or what.  Bear with me.  I'll try to sort this out (later).

Addendum:  A comment by reader Kniffler seems to have steered me to the source of the problem, which seems to have been on my end (the browser opening images at the incorrect magnification).  If so, it will not have affected your viewing.

As Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to say on Laugh-In... "Never mind."

The "Moona Lisa"

Only natural colors of the Moon in planet Earth's sky appear in this creative visual presentation. Arranged as pixels in a framed image, the lunar disks were photographed at different times. Their varying hues are ultimately due to reflected sunlight affected by changing atmospheric conditions and the alignment geometry of Moon, Earth, and Sun. Here, the darkest lunar disks are the colors of earthshine. A description of earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth's oceans illuminating the Moon's dark surface, was written over 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci. 

But stand farther back from your monitor or just shift your gaze to the smaller versions of the image. You might also see one of da Vinci's most famous works of art.
Image and text from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

16 October 2021

Mandarin duck

Because we like to end the blogging day with an interesting photo.  Via.
Photo credit to Kjetil Salomonsen, a birder from Bergen (Norway).

This little Mandarin duck was the attraction of the month here in Bergen, mostly because he is a juvenile that was spotted alone in a small pond with still his immature plumage on. Between early October and last weekend, people have gone there often and were able to see the progression of his colors from immature to a vibrant grown male.

For reference, here is the same individual that I captured about 10 days prior, look at the difference in colors not even two weeks can make!

Reposted to add this photo of another Mandarin duck (via): 

15 October 2021

Superb sand art in a bottle

Two examples of the work of Andrew Clemens.
Andrew Clemens (1857 – 1894) was a sand artist from Iowa in the United States. Clemens formed his pictures by compressing natural colored sands inside chemists' jars to create his works of art.

He would collect naturally colored grains of sand from an area in Pikes Peak State Park known as Pictured Rocks. At Pictured Rocks, the basal portion of the sandstone near the Sand Cave is naturally colored by iron and mineral staining. Clemens separated the sand grains into piles, by color, and used them to form the basis for his art... 

To create his art he inserted the presorted grains of sand into small glass drug bottles using homemade tools formed out of hickory sticks and florists wire. His process utilized no glue and pressure from the other sand grains alone held the artwork together. When Clemens completed a sand bottle he sealed the bottle with a stopper and wax...

Andrew returned to McGregor [Iowa] to live year-round after a fire at the State School for the Deaf destroyed the dorm where he had lived... Clemens showed his work at the Saint Paul Dime Museum in 1889. He earned an invitation to demonstrate his work at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, which he declined due to his failing health. His artwork sold for $5–7 at the time...
Image via.

Another (expensive) example found by reader shiningrobes.

Punctuation (only)

Miss Cellania posted at Neatorama on online tool that allows one to remove all text letters from a passage, leaving behind only the punctuation marks.  I applied that tool to the longest entry I've written for TYWKIWDBI, with the result seen above.

That particular post involved artificial page breaks (*****) and a lot of citations from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, so I tried the tool again on a two-page letter I wrote earlier this week -

- which obviously included a number of URLs.

I wrestled with the question as to whether these images contain punctuation since the symbols don't separate and define any text, but the etymology of punctuation is from the Latin punctuo ("to mark with points"), so I guess it's o.k.

Slow-motion moth flight

Fascinating to watch.  It always amazes me how a creature that has spent its entire life crawling around on a plant can then come out of a cocoon and know how to do this.

I have previously featured life cycles of two of these moths in TYWKIWDBI: the Polyphemus in 2012, and the Virginia Tiger Moth in 2010.

Via Kottke, who notes that "the rest of Smith’s AntLab videos are worth looking through ."

12 October 2021

There is NO RED COLOR in this image

It does look like there is a red letter and a red background on the other flag, but those are optical illusions - illustrated with closeups at Neatorama.

What's eating the mullein ? Solved - it's Paracorsia repandalis

We occasionally find mullein (Verbascum sp.) growing next to our driveway, mixed i with the milkweed and shrubbery.  It's not something we plant, so is technically a weed, but we tolerate it because it can grow to such magnificent proportions.  The photo above is from 2013.

This year mullein appeared in the same general area, but met a sad fate.  The central "spear" was persistently attacked and eaten, not by the rabbits, but by some insect.

I found some semilunar cuts reminiscent of what Monarch cats do to milkweed -

-  but never found a caterpillar under the leaves (it might feed only at night).   I let the process go on its own for most of the summer, then this past week decided to dig into the central mass.

What I retrieved is a generally formless mass of plant fibers liberally admixed with frass.  I didn't want to remove all of it, but I did finally dissect the "mass of frass" to find this little fellow -

- a semitranslucent larva that doesn't resemble any butterfly caterpillar I'm aware of.  It could be a moth larva, but the overall appearance frankly looks a bit more like a beetle larva than a lepidoptera species -

It looks not unlike the "grubs" that my mom and I used to dig out of rotting stumps in the woods up at Leech Lake to use for fishing bait back in the 1960s. (the color a bit inaccurate in my available-light photo; it was more yellowish in real life).

I have no idea what it is.  It currently is residing in a container with some of that chewed mass plus some fresh leaves in a closed container on our screen porch.  Given the season I would expect it to pupate in anticipation of winter.

A brief internet search didn't yield an answer for me.  Googling mullein + caterpillar results in numerous hits for a "mullein moth" that is native to Europe.  A 1904 article "What ate the mullein?" in Elementary School Teacher didn't offer a definitive answer.

I'd be delighted to hear any suggestions.  Is this important?  Not at all.  Just that curious minds want to know.

Addendum:  SOLVED by reader Kniffler, who found the moth Paracorsia repandalis at the Maryland Biodiversity Project, where these photos were posted:

Credit for all photos to Peter Coffey.  Apparently what I referred to as a "formless mass of plant fibers" was actually composed of trichomes from the leaves (admixed with an abundance of frass).

I'll check in a few days and see if I can find the pupa.

Addendum:  Here's a good article about mullein found by reader Crowboy.

And also I'm wondering if the "cotton" in the bee nest I found in a window back in 2019 was comprised of these trichomes from mullein.  Looks very similar.

Volcanic hydrochloric acid production

The toxic soup of volcanic gases (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide) is familiar to most everyone.  Today I learned about a new one being produced on La Palma in the Canaries:
One river of lava reached the ocean near Playa de Los Guirres on Sept. 28. It poured off a 300-foot-tall cliff into the seawater below, prompting authorities to urge residents to remain indoors with their windows closed to limit the entry of outside air. When lava enters the ocean, it heats up seawater extremely rapidly, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen ions. Some of the hydrogen combines with chlorine ions in the seawater to form hydrochloric acid and produce a gas that is toxic when inhaled.
You learn something every day (though hydrochloric acid shouldn't exist as a gas - perhaps they mean hydrogen chloride, or else the HCl is aerosolized as inhalable droplets).  

Image cropped for size from the original. 

A new cryptocurrency

Redeemable in ice cream.  Explained at Neatorama.
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