31 May 2009

No blogging today

It's a gorgeous late spring day in the Midwest. By law, everyone has to be outdoors.

30 May 2009

Fetuses in the womb

The images above of a fetal elephant, dog, and dolphin, appear photographic, but apparently were generated from ultrasound images using computer graphics. Beautiful and impressive. Credit to the BBC.

Oxbow topography of the Mississippi valley

I've always been fascinated by the formation and disappearance of oxbows and oxbow lakes. Once you know what to look for, you can see the remnants of old ones whenever you fly over a river in relatively flat terrain. The meandering path of a slow-moving river explains how sunken riverboats can be discovered miles away from a current riverbed.

Radical Cartography (a site that looks worth exploring, BTW) has reproduced the color illustrations of a 1944 book, The Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River. Above are a two of the illustrations, showing how complex the stratified geography can be in such a region.

Edward VII chair

Not an ordinary chair, mind you. It's a "sex chair" commissioned by Edward VII and used in a French brothel. Details of its history (and use) are a bit too bawdy for this blog, but can be read here. This replica is apparently in a Prague museum; the original is now in private hands and still in use.

Huge single-cell protists changing view of prehistory

Pictured above is a huge amoeba (grape-sized, but that's immense for a single-celled organism). The Bahamian Gromia sphaerica is found on ocean floors, but the incredible new observation is that they leave trails similar to those left by multicellular organisms.
Somehow, these wee blobs are propelling themselves across the ocean floor, at a pace so slow it cannot be readily observed...

Here’s the even crazier thing: If these guys are right, this discovery could completely upend our ideas about the “Cambrian explosion.”

Remember those tracks the Bahamian Gromia left? They’re found in the pre-Cambrian fossil record. For years scientists assumed that only organisms with complex body plans that are symmetrical down the middle — “bilateria,” as they’re called — could possibly move in a fashion that would leave such trails. Thus, biologists have argued that bilateria were around before the Cambrian explosion, which sort of primed the pump for that crazily rapid diversification of bilateria into all the major animal groups we have today. But now it looks as though all those pre-Cambrian seabed trails could have been left by rolling, grape-sized ameobas. Maybe — who knows? — the Cambrian explosion happened even more psychotically quickly than we think. Maybe bilateria weren’t kicking around for millions of years later than we suspect.
More pictures and discussion at the link.

The flint axe that "destroyed" Creationism

The implement is considered the most important stone tool in the establishment of the geological antiquity of human kind. In April 1859, two English businessmen, Joseph Prestwich and John Evans, respectively interested in geology and archaeology, travelled to Amiens to search for evidence to prove the great antiquity of humans. They were searching for a specific type of stone tool which they wanted to extract themselves from undisturbed ground and which had to come from the same geological levels as the bones of extinct animals such as wooly mammoth and rhino. Accompanied by scientific witnesses and a photographer, they eventually discovered a flint axe, on April 27th 1859, in a gravel pit in St Acheul near Amiens.

Although it was impossible to date the implement precisely, the discovery dispelled the biblical view of Creation and provided evidence for a far more remote human antiquity than had hitherto been imagined. Our ancestors did not date back just 6,000 years; but to the era of ice age mammoths.
Of course, Creationists have subsequently moved the mammoths and dinosaurs up into the same 6,000 year window... More re its history and rediscovery at the link.


Wiki discussion here. Photo found at histoiredeloeil.

A review of a San Diego apartment

You will enjoy living in a Hillside Gardens Apartment if you are into the following types of things: being awakened at 7:45 am every other day by the explosion of a trash truck slamming a dumpster around for 25 minutes 100 feet from your window...

Safety. If you enjoy living in a place where you seriously shouldn't walk around after 9 pm without a gun, then sign a lease. I have been accosted while walking from my car, threatened while walking to the laundry room, and have had people come out of the bushes by my apt. high on crack screaming at me flipping out at 9 in the morning...

If you enjoy the constant glares and 3 big gangsters coming to your door when they don't think your home in the middle of a weekday, having backed their pick up truck into your driveway planning to rob your apartment, you just might enjoy living here...

Then there's the friendly RAT population that live in the walls. While in the bathroom, I can hear a big friendly rat scratching the plastic (which is cracked and broken) that is my bathtub. My cats love to sit in the bathroom for hours and track its progress through the walls...

I apologize for the length and may have omitted some things but everything I wrote really happened in 6 months. If you do unfortunately live here, put 911 on your speed dial. Also, the review from the woman who liked the place reads like the ads they place on Craigslist and is probably fake.
Much more at the link.

29 May 2009

Chopsticks for children

A link to the history of chopsticks and one on the art of using chopsticks at the new shelton wet/dry today, but to me what was most interesting is the photo above, which appears to be a child's first chopsticks - fused at the top, grip holes for the thumb and two fingers, and broader gripping tips.

Very cleverly designed!

Addendum: Found a photo of them in use here, and a retail source for these "Bunny Fun Training Chopsticks."

Damselfly viewed from below

Credit listed as "by T@deo "

A scientist ponders marriage

To find out who it was (and what his decision was) go to Futility Closet.

Another severed foot found in Canada - in Quebec

It's been two months since I've added anything to the severed feet category. Finally another case has arisen - this one clear across the continent in Montreal (the others were all in the vicinity of Vancouver).
Robitaille first spotted the shiny, black winter boot earlier this month as he chugged across the 20-hectare farm in his tractor.
Still unsure what the boot contained, he tossed it on the back of the machine and continued working the field for another 15 minutes.
But his growing curiosity pushed him to eventually unzip the unisex boot, so he could pull that blue sock down a little bit further.
"I touched it and pretty much saw that it was a foot," he said of the badly decomposed member.
"It took a real effort to (try and) get it out."

Edgar Allan Poe story illustrations

I selected the two above from a group of 36 assembled at A Journey Around My Skull. These were created by the Irish stained glass artist Harry Clarke for a 1923 anthology of Poe's tales. The pix above enlarge modestly, but the ones at the link supersize to larger than fullscreen, for those interested in the detailed artwork.

Soup recommended to assist with weight loss

Imagine a typical lunchtime meal - say, chicken and vegetables with a glass of water.

If you eat the food and drink the water, you will feel full for a couple of hours before hunger kicks in. But if you blend the food with the water - to make soup - you will stay hunger-free for much longer, and less likely to snack through the afternoon...

After you eat a meal, the pyloric sphincter valve at the bottom of your stomach holds food back so that the digestive juices can get to work.

Water, however, passes straight through the sphincter to your intestines, so drinking water does not contribute to "filling you up"...

When you eat the same meal as a soup, the whole mixture remains in the stomach, because the water and food are blended together. The scientists' scans confirm that the stomach stays fuller for longer, staving off those hunger pangs...

Painted ladies invade Britain

In what could be the biggest influx of butterflies into this country in decades, millions have flown into Britain from the deserts of north Africa. Up to 18,000 were spotted sailing on the breeze across Scolt Head Island on the north Norfolk coast: 50 arriving every minute according to Natural England nature reserve staff...

This year, rumours of an impending invasion began circulating in late winter. A Spanish scientist, Constanti Stefanescu, reported seeing hundreds of thousands of them emerging in Morocco in mid-February after heavy winter rains in north Africa triggered the germination of food plants devoured by its caterpillars...
As impressive as this migration is, it pales in comparison to the numbers of butterflies seen in past years:
In Tudor times, Richard Turpyn recorded "an innumerable swarme of whit buttarflyes ... so thicke as flakes of snowe" that they blotted out views of Calais...

In 1892, SG Castle Russell took a walk through the New Forest: "Butterflies alarmed by my approach arose in immense numbers to take refuge in the trees above. They were so thick that I could hardly see ahead and indeed resembled a fall of brown leaves."
There is a long article about the decline of British butterflies at The Guardian.


When in Rome...

... you're at risk for getting stabbed in the buttocks.
The practice even has its own slang name in the local Roman dialect - "puncicate". But why is the backside targeted?

According to those who have researched the subject, a stab wound in the buttocks may be chosen as it is seen as not likely to be life-threatening, but is humiliating and painful for the victim.

This explanation makes sense:

The practice has also been linked by some academics to medieval first-blood duels, says football writer Gabriele Marcotti. "In the duels the first person to draw blood from their opponent was the winner. Because they fought facing each other, drawing blood by stabbing your opponent's buttocks was considered a great skill.

"But while it's difficult to stab someone in the backside with a sword in that context it's not difficult to do it with a knife from behind, which is what happens these days. 'Puncicate' is not about skill, whatever those who do it like to think."

Disabled facilities in Tree Tops

One of the Telegraph's weekly Sign Language offerings.

28 May 2009

Dolly Parton - Coat of Many Colors

One of Dolly Parton's (many) signature songs. Very few other singers have covered this song, probably because it is so intensely autobiographical. She composed the song, based on her own experience growing up dirt poor in a one-room Tennessee cabin, and wearing a patchwork coat as a child.

This song isn't a good vehicle for displaying her voice; for that, listen to her (and Vince Gill) perform I Will Always Love You.

Pix from FailBlog

"Fail" pictures are as common as LOLcats on the 'net. Here are some samples. Many more at the FailBlog site.

Barack Obama vs. Gordon Brown

Obama wins.

The event occurred last month. Nice still photo here.

Diomedes eaten by his horses

Gustave Moreau: Diomedes devoured by his horses, 1865.
"In ancient times, Diomedes, the King of Thrace, kept four man-eating horses in his stables. These foul beasts were not naturally carnivorous. The tyrant-king Diomedes spent eight long years training them to prefer flesh to oats. Diomedes used these horses to torture his political enemies. Tale of Diomedes' creatures spread throughout the Hellenic world and Heracles (also called Hercules) was tasked with stealing the abominations to make penance for his wife's murder. Hercules, with the help of his best friend Abderus stole the horses at night. Heracles left his friend alone with the horses while he did something else and the beasts quickly devoured Abderus. Hercules was so distraught over the death of his friend that he fed Diomedes to his own horses as poetic revenge."

Text credit Wikipedia. Image found at Uncertain Times.

Stem cell repair of corneal injuries

A remarkably simple, logical, and reportedly effective new treatment for injured corneas. Stem cells are harvested from the healthy eye and cultured on a contact lens, which is then placed on the injured cornea:
The three patients treated so far had very poor vision caused by corneal disease - the fourth most common form of blindness, affecting around 10 million worldwide...

'Unlike other techniques, it requires no foreign human or animal products, only the patient’s own serum, and is completely non-invasive.

'There's no suturing, there is no major operation. You don’t need any fancy equipment.'
Via Neatorama.

Crochet breakfast

Found at Etsy, where patterns can be purchased.

Is your house clean?

Via Icanread.

How old would you be...

...if you didn't know how old you are?

I'd be about 30-35.

Image credit to Icanread, via Lost Found and Envied.

Give antihypertensive medications to EVERYONE

Even if they don't have high blood pressure. That's the conclusion arrived at in a huge meta-analysis published by the respectable BMJ:
London, UK - Blood-pressure-lowering drugs should be offered to everyone, regardless of their blood-pressure level, as a safeguard against coronary heart disease and stroke, researchers who conducted a meta-analysis of 147 randomized trials (comprising 958 000 people) conclude in the May 19, 2009 issue of BMJ...

"Whatever your blood pressure, you benefit from lowering it further," Law told heartwire. "Everyone benefits from taking blood-pressure-lowering drugs. There is no one who does not benefit because their blood pressure is so-called normal."
Other academics disagree with the conclusion:
Adding his opinion, Dr Franz Messerli (St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York City) said that by including 147 trials in their meta-analysis, the authors had to make numerous assumptions, "some possibly valid, others clearly not."
I thoroughly respect the British Medical Journal, but my opinion re this study is expressed in the insert above left. And please note this fine print at the bottom of the page:
Law and Wald disclosed that they hold patents (granted and pending) on the formulation of a combined pill to simultaneously reduce four cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure. McManus disclosed that he has a financial relationship with Sanofi-Aventis, Pfizer, A. Menarini Pharma, and Merck Sharp & Dohme.

Bach's Toccata and Fugue in Dminor - Big Piano version

Last week I posted the accordion version. Here it is on giant organ keys at FAO Schwartz. I've seen this video posted everywhere this week, so I thought I would give it a pass here - but it is irresistibly impressive.

Some people believe this video is "faked," but there are other videos showing the keyboard being walked on randomly, and other tunes being played. Someone has also noted that there is about a 40msec delay between the video and the sound track, which generates an element of unreality to the performance. I suppose it's possible that the keyboard is preset like a player piano and all the person has to do is tap dance the right keys, but I prefer to think that the tapping triggers the organ notes.

Decide for yourself. Fun to watch in any case. (Try fullscreen)

Happy Birthday, Marcia

Cake and ice cream for everyone! (Click image for fullscreen).

If research papers had comment sections...

Credit to PHD comics.


From the Reddit discussion thread:
It's actually difficult to count the number of ways in which that statement is wrong. I mean, of course, there's the first and most obvious that Firefox is not a search engine. Then there's the fact they just compared a product to companies, a mistake so astounding it's actually difficult to comment on. But let's not overlook that in addition to these ridiculous errors, they also took something which, even they themselves seem to understand is in third place somehow, and worded the sentence such that the first half of the sentence implies that thing is in first place.

27 May 2009


Smorgasbords will no longer be on Sundays, when I'm now too busy browsing those once-a-week sites; henceforth we'll offer a smorgasbord whenever the tasty bite-size morsels start to fill up a bookmark folder.

Big Pharma created fake medical journals in which to print articles touting their products.

A woman took film with photos of her granddaughter's butt to WalMart. She was arrested for "child porn." Discussion of the complexity of the law and its implications at Reason.

BASE jumping video. It takes the girl about a minute and a half to step off the cliff; one feels the urge to give her a push. The next minute is good.

An article at the Nation discusses the theory and practice of the Long War. Is the U.S. prepared to conduct a war in the Middle East for 50 years?

A cave in the Vietnam jungle reportedly has the world's biggest cave passage - 650 feet high, 500 wide. Several photos at the link.

Passengers who take prescription drugs, drink several bottles of wine, and then drink the liquid soap on an airliner will probably misbehave.

Spiders may be able to switch to anaerobic metabolism to survive periods of 24 hours underwater in a state of suspended animation.

There are six subcategories of white supremacists: neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity, racist skinhead, Nordic mysticism, and Aryan prison gangs.

The Daily Mail explains how and why Frenchwomen became "horizontal collaborators" during the Nazi occupation.

An elderly woman in her bathrobe cleans a window. Doesn't sound exciting. Pictures at the link.

A bill introduced to Congress will give ALL water in the U.S. to the federal government.

Troops in the Congo believe they develop "supernatural powers" if they sodomize pigmies.

During this economic downturn, many Amish are struggling with a moral dilemma, since their principles mandate that they not accept welfare or unemployment benefits.

A collection of humorous quotations from Stephen Wright. Many will be familiar to you; some will be new.

A parasitic twin emerged from a man's belly button.

Unusual auricular body modification in a TSG mug shot featured at J-Walk.

A Tumblr blog devoted to a single year - in this case 1976. An interesting concept which intrigues me. I might start one for 1946.

How dietary fat improves long-term memory. Published in the respectable PNAS, and apparently sponsored by the NIH, not a corporation.

A Wisconsin court has ruled that police can put a GPS unit on your car and track your location, even if you're not suspected of a crime, and without a court warrant.

Dolphins can catch up on sleep and still remain active, because they can allow just half their brain to sleep at a given time.

Felon runs from police, who catch him. Officer then kicks the malefactor in the face when he surrenders. All of this captured on videotape.

Trailer for a new movie about teenage snowmobilers arming themselves with chainsaws to fight brain-dead Nazi zombies.

Der Spiegel puts the current torture debate into a historical context.

Cats on a treadmill - and enjoying the experience.

Everyone who has visited a lake knows how sound can be transmitted long distances over water. The same principle applies to sound travelling over ice - one report of hearing a human voice ten miles distant.

A website dedicated to the topic of "Ice Age America." Nice video.

Haaretz seems to support the Vatican's assertion that the Pope's membership in Hitler Youth is irrelevant.

Spiders eating creatures. Creatures bigger than they are.

The French are going to put Scientology on trial, arguing that it is a scam and an organized fraud. Bravo.

It has now been reported that chemotherapy drugs can obliterate people's fingerprints. Victims will now be at risk for prosecution for all those crimes where no fingerprints were found...

The photo-aggregating site Pixdaus now presents its material in larger format. Thumbs up. But they still don't give credit to original photographers. Thumbs down.

A man goes out with friends hunting for turkeys. He hides behind a turkey decoy and begins making turkey calls. Guess what happens.

Image credit.

26 May 2009

The Whirlpool Galaxy

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

How cheese is placed on a sub

Discussion thread here.

The scum of the earth

If it's wrong to wish hellfire and damnation on someone, then I'm guilty...

ST. PAUL, Minn. - An elderly St. Paul woman has been robbed of a 14-karat gold necklace that her husband gave her 66 years ago when he came home from World War II.

It was stolen Thursday afternoon from 95-year-old Vivian Clausen.

She says a man put his arm around her and said, "Hi, grandma," then jerked it off of her...

Clausen has been a fixture on her block, where she's lived for 70 years. A local bus shelter that she keeps clean has been named after her.

Meet a real "redneck"

A link to this video was posted at Reddit, along with a query from an Englishman who wondered whether these were "real" people, or just Kentuckians acting up. I spent ten wonderful years working in Lexington, Kentucky and met Eastern Kentuckians very much like this fellow (though not quite so drunk).

If this video interests you, take at look at another good 'ol boy - Ernie "I try not to smile, ’cause I got my teeth knocked out by a chainsaw" Brown, Jr.

Netherlands to close prisons - not enough criminals

During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees...

The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time...
Via Arbroath.

Get to know Balochistan/Baluchistan

It may be in the news in the year(s) to come. This westernmost province of Pakistan, comprising almost half of the country's area, is situated in an absolutely vital strategic area - Iran to the west, Afghanistan to the north, and the Punjab to the east. Here are excerpts from an article posted several weeks ago in Asia Times:
An immense desert comprising almost 48% of Pakistan's area, rich in uranium and copper, potentially very rich in oil, and producing more than one-third of Pakistan's natural gas, it accounts for less than 4% of Pakistan's 173 million citizens. Balochs are the majority, followed by Pashtuns. Quetta, the provincial capital, is considered Taliban Central by the Pentagon...

Strategically, Balochistan is mouth-watering: east of Iran, south of Afghanistan, and boasting three Arabian sea ports, including Gwadar, practically at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz....

Now imagine thousands of mobile US troops - backed by supreme air power and hardcore artillery - pouring into this desert across the immense, 800-kilometer-long, empty southern Afghanistan-Balochistan border. These are Obama's surge troops who will be in theory destroying opium crops in Helmand province in Afghanistan. They will also try to establish a meaningful presence in the ultra-remote, southwest Afghanistan, Baloch-majority province of Nimruz. It would take nothing for them to hit Pakistani Balochistan in hot pursuit of Taliban bands. And this would certainly be a prelude for a de facto US invasion of Balochistan.

What would the Balochis do? That's a very complex question.... As a whole, not only BLA sympathizers but the Balochis in general are adamant: although prepared to remain within a Pakistani confederation, they want infinitely more autonomy....

China - which built Gwadar and needs gas from Iran - must be sidelined by all means necessary. The added paranoid Pentagon component is that China could turn Gwadar into a naval base and thus "threaten" the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean...


It's been quite a while since I've posted anything in the flash games category. Cyberbox was originally issued as a DOS game almost 20 years ago, but has now been redone. The game is HERE. There are 17 levels ("rooms") to solve, and maddingly you get only 7 restarts. I've solved it before, but tonight was only able to reach level 12.

Darn those pesky Neighborhood Association rules

(click to enlarge and read). Source unknown.

British "war poet" will go to Afghanistan

The British tradition of "war poetry" will be revived by the BBC, who are sending one of the country's leading poets to Afghanistan:
While a handful of visual artists have worked in the theatre of war since fighting began in October 2001, Armitage will be the first poet to be granted access...

The planned one-hour documentary, Behind the Lines, is to be produced by BBC veteran Roger Courtier, who hopes to send Armitage to Helmand for a month. Courtier believes the tradition of the British war poet deserves to be reinstated: "We think it is a fabulous idea..."
Others are less sanguine:
A lot depends on how long a writer is at war and if they are a combatant. Of course, a poet can give the view of a sensitive outsider, but you can almost become a voyeur if you are not careful."
Perhaps in memory of the British massacre in Afghanistan in 1842 the new poet could just add an additional verse onto Kipling's immortal poem:
If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Stupid criminal video

This video is several years old, but worth sharing for those who haven't seen it. A CCTV camera captures the efforts of two young men, one of whom stands guard while the other tries to bust the window of a building with bricks.

The audio would have to have been added to the video; whether the rest is somehow faked or not is uncertain; Snopes addresses a similar event, but doesn't seem to have an entry for this specific one. There may be some clues at the YouTube discussion, but I can't bring myself to wade through the drivel on such threads.

Marijuana use by the terminally ill vetoed

Pawlenty [Governor of Minnesota] indicated in a letter that he was torn by the medical marijuana legislation. He said that while he was "sympathetic to those dealing with end-of-life illnesses," he felt marijuana poses "serious public safety and health risks." Legalizing marijuana, even under limited conditions, "could serve to compound these problems," he wrote.
I am at a loss trying to understand how marijuana use by terminally ill people poses a risk to "public safety and health." This is the same medieval mindset that limits morphine use by people with bone metastases. If he fears that the material will "escape" from the deathbed to the community, he needs to get out into the real world; he's trying to close the barn door after the cow is loose.

A device for escaping from burning skyscrapers

For those not bold enough to strap on a wingsuit, a Rescue Reel may offer a viable alternative.
The device is small enough to fit in a cabinet file drawer in an office. The user hooks a Kevlar cord to a secure point in the building, steps into the harness, and then can rappel down the wall "without special training."
Stone's major innovation is a centrifugal braking system that automatically controls the rate of descent. The Rescue Reel's cord unwinds from a spool and wraps around a shaft connected to a brake. As the shaft spins, a set of brake pads exerts force on the inner edge of the brake housing, smoothly slowing the user down. Should the automatic brake fail, the device is also equipped with a manual backup brake lever. Descending from 100 stories up takes less than four minutes—about two seconds per story.
Personally I have some doubts about how readily one could rappel down a skyscraper without prior training, but if the alternative is incineration...

Reportedly the device is past the concept stage and it will be available next year for about $1500. More details at PopSci, where this received an Invention Award.


That's not a word. Or maybe it is. I encountered it this week while reading a book by Daniel Tammet (Embracing the Wide Sky. A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind, Free Press, NY, 2009.) I was going to save this entry for Autistic Pride Day (June 18) but decided to do it today. Daniel Tammet is a high-functioning autistic savant whom I featured in a blogpost last fall - a truly fascinating 48-minute British documentary about Daniel's extraordinary abilities. Because of his high functioning status, Tammet has authored several books. The first ("Born on a Blue Day") was mostly biographical; in this one he discusses how the mind works - the savant's mind and the normal mind, with insights into how the principles seen in the former could be utilized by the latter. In the book he looks into some basic neuroscience principles re how the brain works, reviews the definition and measurement of intelligence, and explains how the brain's abilities are used for memory skills, number skills, and language skills (the last being the weakest part of the book). 

 Now - about "rationalizational." Tammet notes that the English language has an almost undefinable number of possible words because of the combinatorial possibilites generated through the use of prefixes and suffixes. As an example he offers the noun "ration," originally defined as "reasoning." When the suffix "-al" is added, the noun becomes the adjective "rational." Now add the suffix "-ize" to the adjective, and you create the verb "rationalize." Once again, add the suffix "-tion" and you convert the verb back to a noun: "rationalization." The triple-suffixed "rationalization" is the endpoint for conventional English, but in principle the process could go on forever. 

 The next step would be to add "-al" again to create the adjective "rationalizational." Tammet notes that even though this is not a word, many people have logically and unintentionally "created" it as a neologism to convey a desired meaning, and Googling the word yields 161 hits. (TYWKIWDBI may offer the 162nd after this blog post gets logged by Google.)

24 May 2009


I always like to end the blogging day with pictures. The ones above (Zebra and Emerald) are from a collection at Science Ray (via Neatorama's Upcoming Queue).

There's another photo gallery at Gardenweb, and pix of the ones we have raised here. We haven't seen any yet this spring, but the fennel and parsley are growing and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of some gravid females.

Munch on some Ice Scream

After visiting the Plain Ol' Food blog yesterday, I realized I haven't posted many items about food. Tomorrow's smorgasbord will have an item on How To Cook a Cow's Head, but for now let me just offer this rendition of Edvard Munch's The Scream.

Original credit apparently to Balsalmia at Flickr.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

Born 68 years ago today in Duluth, Minnesota. Six years later he and his family moved to Hibbing when his father developed polio (a few years before I did). Then to Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota's Dinkytown in 1959.

In the clip above he performs Mr. Tambourine Man at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. This is archetypal classic Bob Dylan, because a year later he would be booed on the same stage for performing with an electric guitar rather than an acoustic one.

To celebrate his birthday, you could bake some of this mother's Banana Chocolate Chip Loaf Bread (??!). The recipe is at The Clever Pup.

CD players behave as gyroscopes in microgravity

NASA International Space Station Science Officer Don Pettit demonstrates how a spinning CD acts as a stabilizing gyroscope in microgravity. When two and three CD players are combined in perpendicular planes, they provide a relatively stable platform.

Can anyone I.D. this grey caterpillar? [Update: catocala caterpillar, larval form of underwing moth]

I found this little fellow twitching on top of leaf litter in a deciduous woods near Madison, Wisconsin. I didn't recognize his species, and when I picked him up, everything became even more bizarre...

The caterpillar is about 6cm in length, dark grey in color, with a series of tubercles along the dorsal aspect of the body segments. There is a horn-like dorsal appendage near the rear, and another bifurcated horn behind that. The margin between dorsum and abdomen appears to be gently "fringed."

On the ventral surface near mid-body are four large holes, with perhaps another smaller one near his forelegs. Nothing is oozing from these holes.

Left undisturbed, he/she remains virtually motionless. Overnight in a jar in my office there was no change of position. But when disturbed the cat twitches forcefully with a side-to-side motion.

I can only assume that the caterpillar was parasitized by a ?wasp, and that the parasitic young have already emerged from those holes. I'm keeping him for now in case another creature emerges from one of the other body segments.

I spent an hour last night searching for an identification of this caterpillar. I viewed most of the images at the excellent USGS Caterpillars of Eastern Forests website, then paged through several years of posts at the (outstanding) What's That Bug site, and also found nothing at Duke University's beautiful photoblog of moth caterpillars.

If any TYWKIWDBI visitors have suggestions or know of friends with entomologic skills to whom you could forward this link, I would be greatly appreciative.

First update: Courtesy of Dr. Pellitteri at the University of Wisconsin, I believe this caterpillar is in the Catocala [Underwing] genus. I'm looking for more details...

Second update: I finally was able to restrain the caterpillar sufficiently to examine the abdomen more closely (the Catocala caterpillars are apparently famous for their thrashing maneuvers). Dr. Pellitteri had suggested that the dark patches were areas of coloration, and I now think that is correct. This will come as a great relief to those of you who have been losing sleep worrying about critters erupting from the poor cat's abdomen. I'm not sure WHY coloration would be placed in such a normally unseen location, unless it serves to deter predators (birds etc) who turn the caterpillar over. This genus of caterpillar pupates underground or under leaf litter on the forest floor, so I've moved him to a jar with several inches of peat into which he can tunnel if he's ready to pupate, and I've given him some oak leaves to munch on in the meantime. If anything interesting happens, I'll post another update.

2012 Olympic cycling logo

In my opinion, this is an inspired and attractive graphic design. Apparently created by Alan Clarke; it partially compensates for the absolutely dreadful overall Olympics logo for those games.

Via Zumbi.

"Bet dieting"

An interesting concept for promoting weight loss.

Bet dieters join a website and make a commitment to lose a certain amount of weight over a defined period of time.

Then, if they fail to meet their targets, money is withdrawn from their account and paid to a charity of their choice...

Not only are people who sign up hit in the wallet if they fail, their friends can get to hear about it via a group e-mail...

That part seems fairly unexciting. Here's the good part...

The founders say a particularly effective way to encourage people to lose weight is to get them to nominate a charity with whose views they disagree to receive money should they fail...

"We chose some highly contentious issues, for instance global warming, abortion and gay marriage.

And then your friends get an email notifying them not only that you didn't lose weight, but that you just contributed money to an organization you hate. Fiendishly clever.

23 May 2009

Name that Tune

(answer in the comments)

Willie Nelson - Funny How Time Slips Away

Say, how's your new love?
I hope he's doin' fine.
I heard you told him
That you'd love him 'til the end of time.
Now that's the same thing that you told me -
It seems like yesterday -
Oh, ain't it funny, how time slips away.

Chicken head tracking

A classic YouTube video from last year - silly and amateurish, but it does effectively illustrate the amazing ability of birds to maintain their head position during body movement. Most people have seen this phenomenon when observing birds walking, when the head eases backward as the body moves forward.

Blood Falls, Antarctica

This undated handout photo provided by the journal Science shows Iron oxides staining the snout of the Taylor Glacier, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, forming a feature commonly referred to as Blood Falls. The iron originates from ancient subglacial brine that episodically discharges to the surface. Outflow collected at Blood Falls provides access to a unique subglacial ecosystem that harbors a microbial consortium which actively cycles iron, sulfur and carbon for growth. (AP Photo/ Science, Benjamin Urmston)
Blogged last month; revisited today in order to show this great photo from Boston.com's Big Picture. Click to enlarge.

22 May 2009

Wanted: a room with a view

A British homeowner, distressed that sand dunes were blocking his view of the ocean, hired a bulldozer to remove the dunes. Community officials are upset by his action and are contemplating what response to make.

This brings to mind a similar situation that occurred in Australia when someone cut down trees blocking the view. The Port Stephens Council responded by stacking shipping containers at the site where the trees were removed:

Tim Burton has begun filming Alice in Wonderland

Scheduled for release in 2010, this will be about the 20th film version of Alice in Wonderland, but this time the story will be reworked to have Alice "return" to Wonderland as an older girl, so it will not adhere to the traditional plot.

An "unknown actress" (Mia Wasikowska) has been selected as Alice; the remainer of the characters are represented by an all-star cast: Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen, Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat, Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar, and Christopher Lee as the Jabberwock. Oh yes, and some guy named Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Considering the director's previous work, this should be a fascinating movie.

Photos found here.
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