31 December 2008
The Chase on the Lake is a premier hotel, restored to the elegance it displayed when it was first built in 1922, when revelers used to ride the railroad train up from Mpls-St. Paul to spend holidays at Leech Lake.
This year they are offering a New Year's Eve package which includes lobster/chateaubriand dinner, drinks, dancing, and... the rental of a fish house?
A Federal Way megachurch won approval Monday to add a helicopter takeoff and landing area, called a helistop, on its property.
It will enable Pastors Casey and Wendy Treat of Christian Faith Center to shuttle by air between the 15-month-old Federal Way church and its Everett campus...
The church will use the helistop only on major religious holidays and for special guest speakers, said Hulsmann, owner of Abbey Road Group Land Development Services. Another case would be a special event, such as Wendy Treat’s birthday, so she could be at both campuses for services, Hulsmann said...
(Curious about the distance involved, I used Mapquest to check. It's about a 50 mile drive.)
She weighed 7.5 pounds at birth and was "only" 200 pounds at age 5, then doubled over the next two years. One article estimated her daily caloric intake at 10,000 calories.
Found an updated video. It's an amazing transformation after she loses 320 pounds. The technology used to lose weight? Diet. And exercise.
The album title is E=MC2 (with the 2 superscripted as in the famous mass/energy equation). This is supposed to stand for "Mariah Carey times two," but as written the 2 applies only to the C, so it "translates" as Mariah Carey Carey.
It should have been written E = 2(MC).
Not to be out-geeked, someone else has pointed out that the equation actually should be written as follows:
...using the Internet Movie Cars Database, the link to which was posted at Presurfer today. The nice part is that it lists not just fancy cars that are prominent in the movie (which would never include mine), but also incidental cars parked on the sides of streets. I found my original yellow Beetle in Sahara, my treasured Z-car in Good Burger, and my 160,000 workhorse green Subaru in Inspector Gadget. Yours will be somewhere in the database.
Update May 2010: The Forester now has 175,000 miles and is still going strong.
30 December 2008
The storm was gone by nightfall, but it was still dank as a drain. I roiled around in the muddle of my bed, listening to my heart limping against the bedsprings, trying to get comfortable. (p. 135)
I and the girl in the picture have ceased to be the same person. I am her outcome, the result of the life she once lived headlong; whereas she, if she can be said to exist at all, is composed only of what I remember. I have the better view – I can see her clearly, most of the time. But even if she knew enough to look, she can’t see me at all. (p. 239)Here she contemplates the development of a major tragedy:
Breakfasts, picnics, ocean voyages, costume balls, newspapers, boating on the river. Such items do not assort very well with tragedy. But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife stab, the shell-burst, the plummet of the car from the bridge.” (p. 417)And some final thoughts as death draws near:
At my age you indulge in these apocalyptic visions. You say, The end of the world is at hand. You lie to yourself – I’m glad I won’t be around to see it – when in fact you’d like nothing better, as long as you can watch it through the little secret window, as long as you won’t be involved. (p. 478)And one final witty observation:
Aimee looked like any newborn baby – she had that squashed face, as if she’d hit a wall at high speed. (p. 431)The novel itself has several story lines intertwined into a complex but ultimately coherent plot with a surprising and satisfying outcome. It was published in 2000 and won the coveted Booker Prize that year. Time magazine lists it among the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923. If you enjoy reading (long) novels, it will reward your time.
The singular term "sweet tooth" is a phrase that everyone knows, referring to a liking or preference for sweet foods or candies.
While reading The Blind Assassin, I encountered this sentence:
The "sweet tooth" is either a single item in one's mouth, or a condition or perception in one's senses, so one person can't have plural "sweet teeth," which conveys the wrong implication that the teeth themselves are sweet. To my ear, "sweet tooths" does in fact sound more appropriate.
But "tooths" is not offered as a plural of "tooth" in Random House or in the OED. (Though, curiously, "teeths" can sometimes be used).
Perhaps there's a copy editor out there somewhere with a reference book of usage that can clarify this matter...
New York City in 1926 was teeming with tens of thousands of homeless and orphaned children.By today's standards such behavior would be unthinkable. But this was only about two generations ago. More details at the link
The Orphan Train … took destitute children, in small groups, by train to small towns and farms across the country, with many traveling to the West and Midwest. From 1854 to 1929, more than 200,000 children were placed with families across 47 states...
"We'd pull into a train station, stand outside the coaches dressed in our best clothes. People would inspect us like cattle farmers. And if they didn't choose you, you'd get back on the train and do it all over again at the next stop."
Last week I received an email in which a friend commented "... my dad is getting forgetful, B----- is getting forgetful, J---E---- is getting forgetful... Bums me out." This afternoon I was walking downtown with a young friend who suddenly couldn't remember the (common) word he wanted to use in conversation.
It almost makes one wonder if the fast pace of our cyberworld lives keeps introducing so many facts/stories/videos/tunes into our brains that the cerebrum winds up having to zap its parameter RAM and reboot, and in the process loses a few "inconsequential" data bits. Or perhaps there's something in the air...
or in the water... [see next blog entry]
*Can't Remember A F------ Thing
That dose of Prozac, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Zoloft or Zyban doesn't disappear once you swallow it.(Text and image credit to the StarTribune)
Some of it flows through your body into toilets, sewer lines, wastewater treatment plants and eventually into lakes and rivers.
Multiply that by millions of people, and tons of diluted but biologically active drug residues end up in the drink...
Scientists at St. Cloud State University [are] studying what happens to fathead minnows when they're exposed to antidepressants. The results have been surprising.They've found that fish eggs and hatchlings doused with drugs are more laid back than those raised in cleaner water. That may be a death sentence in nature; they could be gobbled up by larger fish before they can escape...
...those exposed to antidepressants for five days as eggs or during 12 days after hatching were almost twice as slow to react as those raised in clean water. "If you're a fish living downstream of a wastewater treatment plant, you're not just getting a single dose of Prozac, you're getting several antidepressants, antibiotics, estrogen, birth control pills and other compounds...."
Some of his other research has shown that males exposed to some antidepressants were "feminized" and developed proteins normally made only by egg-laying females.
What all of this means is unclear, said Schoenfuss, except that pharmaceuticals even at extremely low concentrations can affect growth and development of very young and adult fish.
Alone in her one-room cabin high in the mountains of southern Mexico, Ines Ramirez Perez felt the pounding pains of a child insistent on entering the world...
Three years earlier, she had given birth to a dead baby girl. As her labour intensified, so did her concern for this unborn child.
The sun had set hours ago. The nearest clinic was 80km away over rough roads, and her husband, her only assistant during a half-dozen previous births, was drinking at a cantina. She had no phone and neither did the cantina.
So at midnight, after 12 hours of constant pain, the petite, 40-year-old mother of six sat down on a low wooden bench. She took several gulps from a bottle of rubbing alcohol, grabbed a 15-cm knife and began to cut.
By the light of a single dim bulb, Ramirez sawed through skin, fat and muscle before reaching inside her uterus and pulling out her baby boy. She says she cut his umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, then passed out.
That was March 5, 2000. Today the baby she delivered, Orlando Ruiz Ramirez, is a rambunctious 4-year-old. And Ines Ramirez is recognised internationally as a modern miracle: She is believed to be the only woman known to have performed a successful Caesarean-section on herself.
(Photo inset shows the knife she used)
The ambulance crew had been sent to Barry Baker's detached home after he dialled 999 saying he thought he was having a heart attack.
Ambulance controllers kept Mr Baker talking on the phone as they ordered the paramedic and ambulance technician to use their blue lights to get to him as quickly as possible.
However the 59-year-old, who lived alone, collapsed unconscious while talking on the phone, leaving the line open to the control centre as he lay on the floor.
Minutes later, dispatch centre staff heard their crew enter the house and allegedly make disparaging comments about its state.
A police source said the ambulancemen were then heard over the phone discussing Mr Baker and allegedly saying "words to the effect that he was not worth saving"...
They are then heard discussing what to tell ambulance control and allegedly decide to say that he was already dead when they arrived.
"Obviously the crew did not realise that the phone was still connected and, of course, the 999 call was all recorded on tape," said the source.
"The tape recording of what the paramedics allegedly said has been handed over to the Sussex Police Major Crime Team as evidence."
"The men were arrested by Sussex Police on December 5 on suspicion of wilfully neglecting to perform duty in a public office.
(Text and image credit to the Telegraph)
I'm certainly the last person who should make value judgements on fashion trends, but I sincerely doubt that "tattoo eyebrows" are meant to be done as a "connect-the-dots" pattern.
Image found here, which may not be the original source (it looks like it should be a smoking gun mugshot).
29 December 2008
Teaching Math In 1950:
A logger sold a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?
Teaching Math In 1960:
A logger sold a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?
Teaching Math In 1970:
A logger sold a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?
Teaching Math In 1980:
A logger sold a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.
Teaching Math In 1990:
A logger cut down a beautiful forest, because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? After answering the question, the topic for class participation is: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.)
The Result In 2005:
Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The young woman at the counter took my $2. I was digging for my change when I pulled 8 cents from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and 3 pennies while looking at the screen on her register.
I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried.
28 December 2008
The world's largest emerald weights 850 pounds. Not carats, mind you. Pounds.
What to do with calendars at the end of the year? One suggestion is to recycle the pictures into colorful envelopes. I would suggest not using these for postal mailings, since patterned envelopes may impair computerized reading of addresses and ZIPs, but they would look nice on gifts.
A California family found $10,000 (cash) inside a box of crackers.
A girl in India has set a new record as the youngest person ever to pass the exam as a Microsoft Certified Professional. She is 9 years old.
During the riots in Greece, one of the "anarchist agitators" smashing windows etc. was filmed mingling freely with the police. The narration of the YouTube video is in Greek, but the guy does appear to be acting like an agent provocateur.
An increasing number of private individuals are dressing up in Spandex outfits of superheroes and going out on the streets to battle criminals.
A long article in the WSJ details how Iceland succumbed to financial trends and became a prime victim (and a prime propagator) of the worldwide financial meltdown.
Presurfer has a link to a good article on How To Avoid Looking Like An American Tourist. Lots of commonsense and ordinary recommendations, but also some one might not think of. I didn't know holding one's fork in the right hand makes Americans obvious in restaurants.
Modern nostalgia for a white Christmas can be traced back to a string of unusually cold and snowy winters during Charles Dickens' childhood.
The earth is being bombarded by cosmic rays from a mysterious nearby source.
Nice photos of ice ribbons emerging from a metal fence.
The Madoff scandal prompted Alex at Neatorama to list the 9 Most Brazen Ponzi Schemes (the ninth one is the American Social Security system).
A purple squirrel has been seen in England. Hopefully unrelated to reports of amateurs doing genetic engineering at home.
Smoke from an office fire in Houston killed three people. The insurance company is arguing that the policy does not cover deaths due to "pollution."
Ancient and modern legends of "milky seas" can be explained by bioluminescent bacteria. (There was also an excellent satellite image of such a phenomenon, but I can't locate it right now).
Video of the incredible camoflage of an octopus.
Annoy-A-Tron - a tiny device you hide in a (friend's) office. It intermittently emits a "beep" but it's so tiny it's hard to find.
"The Curse of the Crying Boy" - a story from Fortean Times.
(image credit here)
There was a swarm of sixteen earthquakes in 24 hours this weekend (map above, updates at this link). It probably is not significant, but it is worth remembering that the Yellowstone caldera is a hotspot above a supervolcano, the eruption of which would mean theendoflifeasweknowit, at least for the United States. The Yellowstone one has erupted approximately every 600,000 years, and the last eruption was... lets see... 600,000 years ago.
Found at Reddit, where there is a discussion thread.
27 December 2008
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Ice festivals and winter carnivals are common celebrations in northern countries; where I grew up in Minnesota, the St. Paul Winter Carnival had been an annual event since 1886 (when it was established in response to a New York reporter's claim that the area was "another Siberia, unfit for human habitation." The bottom photo above shows the Ice Palace of 1887.
Among the modern winter festivals, one of the most spectacular is held in Harbin, in the PRC (next door to the real Siberia). I've embedded two photos above. There are impressive collections of photos here and here.
The video above is from National Geographic, documenting the remarkable ability of the basilisk to walk on water (that's why it is colloquially known as the "Jesus Christ" lizard).
Understanding how the basilisk accomplishes this raises the question as to whether this was the mode of locomotion of the dinosaur ancestors of modern birds. All of the fossils of the primitive Archaeopteryx have been found in what 150 million years ago was an archipelago of coral islands. There is no tree pollen in the deposits that hold the Archaeopteryx fossils, suggesting that they did not glide from trees. Also, they were very small - the size of the basilisk.
Perhaps Archaeopteryx was a shore bird running across shallow waters, and the feathered upper limbs were developed to enhance this performance; after several millennia they could have evolved into proper wings with aerodynamic lift. Anyone who has ever spent time fishing or at a lakeshore or seashore has certainly seen modern seabirds run across the surface before attaining enough velocity to allow liftoff.
This "ground up" hypothesis for the origin of bird flight was apparently first proposed in 2000; other paleontologists and biologists disagree and favor a "trees down" development from gliding to flapping. The argument won't be settled soon - nor need it be. It's just interesting to ponder...
But slipping into St. Patrick's for Mass in Spanish is pretty wonderful. It's like a big family reunion at which I know nobody and so nobody is mad at me. Nothing said in Spanish offends me doctrinally or any other way. I squeeze into the crowd, under the placid stone faces of saints, the sweet smell of burning wax and a hundred varieties of cologne, and feel the religious fervor, and tears come to my eyes, and I light a candle, say a wordless prayer, and out into the cold I go.
It brought back memories of Christmas Eve in Copenhagen 20 years ago and how beautiful the sermons were before I started learning Danish.A man gets a keener sense of the divine in a church that is not your own. Maybe Luther and Calvin and Jan Hus and all them were dead wrong and literacy is not the key nor an understanding of Scripture, and maybe the essence of Christmas is dumb childlike wonder and the more you think about it, the less you understand.
I've always doubted claims about cellphones and cancer because of the latter should require a long latency, and cell phone use is a recent development. Early results from a large collaborative study are, however, beginning to suggest a trend...
Interphone researchers are pooling and analyzing the results gathered from studies on 6,400 tumors sampled from patients in 13 countries... people who use cellphones regularly are 50 percent more likely than non-users to develop brain tumors. And a joint Interphone analysis from the U.K., Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland reported a 40 percent increase in tumor risk in people who use cellphones for more than a decade; the study found no discernable risk for people who have used cellphones for fewer than 10 years.Note that's not a study of 6,400 people - it's a study of 6,400 cases of brain cancer, which is a relatively uncommon disorder.
Image credit to Gizmodo - I interpret it as a commentary on where people should store cell phones while driving a car...
The text of this question posted on the 'net reads as follows...
"[I] was just thinking my sister does -alot- of reading and spends like $1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once then never looks at again. is there any kind of like… video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper, plus once has read one the next person can get enjoyment from it etc"This is several years old and has been amusing librarians and library users ever since; I thought it is worth sharing.
In an age when the adult populations of most industrialized nations have grown significantly taller, the average height of black women in the U.S. has been receding, beginning with those born in the late 1960s.
The difference in stature between white women and black women has now stretched to three-quarters of an inch and appears to be increasing, according to newly released data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The average height of a black woman born in the 1980s is just under 5 feet 4 inches; her mother, born in the 1960s, is more than half an inch taller. Even her grandmother, born in the 1940s, is a bit taller. The average white woman born in the 1980s is about half an inch taller than her mother...
You have to go back to the antebellum South to find a similar shrinkage. The generation of white men born in the 1840s who experienced the ravages of the Civil War lost nearly an inch to their Northern counterparts, Komlos said.
... the average height of adult Americans, once the tallest folk to roam the planet, stopped rising after World War II and has since been surpassed by that of several European nations. The Dutch now lay claim to the title of tallest...
"The only reasonable explanation we can come up with is diet and the obesity epidemic among (middle- and low-income) black women," said Komlos.
Over the last three decades, the prevalence of obesity among white Americans has tripled, while among blacks it has increased fivefold....
High caloric intake... speeds the onset of puberty... This early onset of puberty reduces the duration of the critical pre-adolescent growth spurt, resulting in a lower adult height.
More at the link. Image credit here (the women in the image were not part of the study and I don't know if they are shorter than expected; it's just a random picture of a group of African-American women).
NEWTON COUNTY, Ga. -- The latest case of zero-tolerance at the public schools has a 10-year-old student sadder and wiser, and facing expulsion and long-term juvenile detention... Alandis' gun was a "cap gun," a toy cowboy six-shooter that his mother bought for him...The story continues at the link, with a neighborhood child calling the police to say that the boy had a real gun. Six police officers arrived at his home, booked him, and fingerprinted him.
"We got it from Wal-Mart... That's what he wanted because it was just like the ones he was studying for the Civil War" in his fifth-grade class at Fairview Elementary School...
"On the school bus... when I dug into my bookbag trying to get my phone out, the boy beside me, he reached in my bookbag and got it [the toy gun] and started telling everybody, 'He's got a gun, he's got a gun,' and spread it around the whole bus. So I put it back in my bookbag."
Alandis was charged with possessing a weapon on school property and with terroristic acts and threats....I do understand the danger that toy guns can be mistaken for real ones. But it's not right to charge him with "possessing a weapon." A toy gun is not a weapon. Something doesn't become a weapon because it looks like one. I'm reminded of the Canadian woman who had a two-inch gun charm on a necklace and was hassled by the TSA for that.
"Student safety is our primary concern, and although this was a toy gun, it is still a very serious offense and it is a violation of school rules. We will not tolerate weapons of any kind on school property."
The boy needed to be educated and gently disciplined. "You shouldn't have done that. Don't do it again." He didn't need to be "booked and fingerprinted." Zero-tolerance policies in schools require no brains to administer, as when that 13-year-old girl was strip-searched for ibuprofen (later ruled by U.S. Court of Appeals to be unconstitutional).
Want to browse Christmas "wish books" from Sears (and Spiegel, J.C. Penney, FAO Schwartz) from when you were a kid? Want to know what your parents paid for your Christmas presents.
Catalogs from 1940 to 1988 are stored here. Be patient while they load; some have 600 images.
Embedded above are the pages showing microscope sets ($5 - $15), chemistry sets with lots of toxic materials ($5 - $28), and a Lionel train for $40. I wonder what the latter would go for now on eBay new-in-box. Would have been a better investment than General Motors stock...
Jason and Jenny Cairns-Lawrence, from Dudley, West Midlands, U.K. were vacationing in New York City in 2001. On September 11.
Four years later, on July 7 they were visiting London (see photo above).
Last month, they took a trip to... (wait for it)... Mumbai.
Found at Arbroath. Image credit here.
26 December 2008
The display of caganers has been a tradition in Catalonia since the 17th century:
Accompanying Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the Shepherds and company, the caganer is often tucked away in a corner of the model, typically nowhere near the manger scene. There is a good reason for his obscure position in the display, for "caganer" translates from Catalan to English as "pooper", and that is exactly what this little statue is doing — defecating.Traditionally the figurine depicts a peasant in a red stocking cap, but in the modern era celebrities and politicians have been used, including Pope John Paul II and George W. Bush. This year's additions include Vladimir Putin and Gordon Brown, but the best seller is Barack Obama. (Image credit here)
The Army needs to add at least 30,000 active-duty soldiers to its ranks to fulfill its responsibilities around the world without becoming stretched dangerously thin, senior Army officials warn...Someone can perhaps enlighten me as to why it is important for this country to maintain, much less increase, the number of our soldiers in Korea. I would note that it is certainly convenient for the Armed Forces that the U.S. is heading into a major recession with all that attendant rising unemployment. Just a coincidence, of course, but quite convenient.
But the demand for soldiers extends beyond [Iraq and Afghanistan], with the Pentagon creating new missions that require troops trained in cyber-warfare, homeland defense, intelligence-gathering and other areas...
The Army is currently on track to grow to 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the war. But Ford and other Army officials say that, with rising demand for ground troops for Afghanistan and other contingencies, the increase is insufficient...
The demand for soldiers extends beyond the war zones, as commanders in other regions request troops, Ford said. "It's a real challenge. It's not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea...."
The American consumer has the attention span of a goldfish...
After nearly a year of flagging sales, low gas prices and fat incentives are reigniting America's taste for big vehicles.
Trucks and SUVs will outsell cars in December… Meanwhile the forecast finds that sales of hybrid vehicles are expected to be way down.
This month, trucks and SUVs will make up 51% all vehicles sold in the U.S…. In November, Prius sales were already down 48% compared to the same month in 2007…
The Giant's Causeway and other similar structures around the world are composed of basalt, which is extruded from volcanoes as fluid lava. It has been difficult to explain how lava would solidify into such regular hexagons. Physicists at the University of Toronto are now reporting that they have reproduced the phenomenon using water, corn starch, and a heat lamp. It appears to depend on the rate of cooling of the lava, and the principle may be extended to explain other regular geometric figures such as that found in polygonal permafrost. (p.s. - "hexagonality" is a neologism; I needed something short to fit in the title space)
Addendum: better pictures here.
Genetically modified blue roses have reportedly been successfully created by the Japanese company Suntory; they inserted the gene for the blue plant pigment delphinidin into a strain of white roses. The ones in the photo at the top (from their website) appear to be more lavender than blue. Link found here.
The very blue ones in the bottom photo are "conventional" blue roses created by placing a cut stem into a blue dye.
As someone at Shorpy pointed out, the toys under the tree would be worth a fortune today (the Toonerville Trolley in the foreground goes for about $1500).
What interests me about this tree and the one in the next blog entry, apart from the decorations, is the "openness" of the branches. This is the way trees were when I was a child in the 1950s. Modern farmed trees are repeatedly mechanically pruned with I think a conical trimmer, and they become so dense with new growth that it becomes difficult to have ornaments dangle from the branches.
Definitely worth clicking to enlarge.