31 August 2009

Cat viewed from below

Via When You Get To The Heart Use Knife and Fork.

"Real grass" requires sophisticated technology

And lots of money. Minnesota is building a new sports stadium in Minneapolis to replace the current Metrodome. This will be an open-air facility reminiscent of the old Metropolitan stadium where I watched the Vikings and Twins in the 1960s. In those days when it rained, the turf became muddy. No longer.

To build the new stadium, turf was shipped in a convoy of refrigerated trucks from Colorado to Minnesota. It's understandable, but it still boggles an old man's mind. Sports fans in Minnesota have been so excited by the prospect of real grass playing fields that they
"started showing up -- usually unannounced -- at the turf farm wanting a tour to see the new playing field."
The technology that supports the grass is schematically diagrammed above.

About 10 inches below the surface, a heating system has been installed to warm the field in the early spring or the early fall of October, assuming the Twins season extends that far.

There also will be a drainage system installed that will allow as much as 20 inches of water per hour to be whisked away from the playing surface.

Twenty inches of water per hour??? This is Minneapolis, not Bangladesh - I think this is overengineered, but it's presumably considered necessary to protect the $100 million knees of the athletes. I'm not angry, and I love sports, but sometimes I get curmudgeonly about the business aspects of the games.

A proposal to give the President "emergency control of the internet."

I presume the President already has emergency control of other communications systems, including television, radio, and telephone. He and the military probably have control of most satellite systems. Now a bill before Congress offers additional powers:
The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license...
The Senate Commerce Committee says this bill is necessary and non-threatening:
This particular legislative language is based on longstanding statutory authorities for wartime use of communications networks. To be very clear, the Rockefeller-Snowe bill will not empower a "government shutdown or takeover of the Internet" and any suggestion otherwise is misleading and false. The purpose of this language is to clarify how the president directs the public-private response to a crisis, secure our economy and safeguard our financial networks, protect the American people, their privacy and civil liberties, and coordinate the government's response.
These reassurances notwithstanding, TYWKIWDBI finds the idea discomfiting.

Driftwood horses

Created by sculptor Heather Jansch, via Feingut.

Countering an e-mail smear

The image above has apparently been circulating by emails for the past year. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen it, but I suppose some friends/acquaintances will eventually forward it to me. That's why I was glad to see the explanation at a Reddit thread.

The image shows (note: "Hussein") Obama holding "The Post-American World," described as "a Muslim's view of a defeated America."

The email claims veracity by citing the photo's confirmation by Snopes. What they don't offer is Snopes' analysis that the photo is in fact real, but the book, despite its title, is not referring to a "defeated America" (it's about the rise of other countries, with an optimistic view of the coming century, and a prediction that America will stay strong.)

Smart phones owned by kindergartners and teachers

According to the 2008 data above, the percentage of K-2 children who own smart phones is approximately the same as the percentage of their teachers who have one!

Found at The Centered Librarian, citing the Drill Down column of The Journal: Transforming Education Through Technology.

Word for the day: Simony

Properly defined, "simony" is an ecclesiastical crime, but in modern parlance the term has been applied more widely. It originally referred to the buying/selling of holy offices of the church.

In ancient times, practitioners of simony were condemned to Dante's eighth circle of Hell. In our era, they become President of the United States.

Ambassadorships have always been offered to campaign donors. I had hoped that Obama would break from this tradition, and we commended him on his choice for ambassador to China. Now there are suggestions that we may be dealing with "the new boss, same as the old boss"...
President Obama said he would try to reduce the number of non-career appointees as U.S. envoys abroad. But the majority of his picks so far have been wealthy donors such as Minneapolis attorney Sam Kaplan. The prominent DFL fundraiser, together with his wife, Sylvia, bundled or collected more than $100,000 for Obama's record-breaking presidential campaign.

Another is Boston lawyer Barry White, a major Obama donor recently named ambassador to Norway, replacing Minnesota native Ben Whitney -- a fundraising "pioneer" ($100,000-plus) for former President George W. Bush…

Two foreign service groups -- the American Academy of Diplomacy and the American Foreign Service Association -- are urging the administration fill no more than 10 percent of its 184 diplomatic postings with noncareer ambassadors…

So far, 38 of 65 ambassador appointments -- more than 58 percent -- are political, a much higher percentage than the historical average of about 30 percent, according to the Foreign Service Association…

Former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, chairman of the American Academy of Diplomacy, calls it a form of "simony" -- the ancient practice of buying public offices. "Nobody's trying to dump on all noncareer ambassadors… What's bad is the connection between how much you bundle or collect and the jobs that are given out as rewards."

A ceiling made from jewel beetles

Humans have used insects for decoration since ancient times. The red dyes favored by European nobility track back to the Aztec discovery that cochineal could be harvested from scale insects on cacti. Another scale insect - Kermococcus vermilius - was used so extensively that its name is probably the root for both "carmine" and "vermiliion."

The ceiling depicted above is contemporary, created by applying the wing coverings of jewel beetles to the surface:
This incredible ceiling art - known as Heaven Of Delight - can be found at the Royal Palace in Brussels and was the brainchild of controversial Flemish artist Jan Fabre, a man renowned for working with strange media including blood, sperm and all manner of insects. Apparently it took Fabre's team of around 30 people 4 months just to glue the beetle shells to the ceiling.
Room photo credit, beetle photo credit. Via Killer Directory, Chris Tyrell's Blog, and Presurfer.

On a related matter, here's some information on the manufacture of shellac from lac scales:
Shellac has been used since 1200 BC and is made from an insect called the lac scale. The lac scale is a native of India and Burma and its host plant is related to the fig trees. The word lac is derived from the Sanskrit word, laksha which means 100,000 and refers to the large number of the minute insects required to produce lac. All female scale insects are wingless and the lac females cover their bodies with a resinous secretion. The resin hardens into a shield. Because the lac insect is sedentary, densities on branches can become very high. Branches on the host tree that become highly coated with the resin are referred to as a stick lac.

The stick lac is ground up to free the lac granules that are crushed and boiled in water. The lac floats to the surface of the water and is skimmed from the surface and dried in the sun. After the lac is dried, it is placed in burlap bags and stretched over a fire. As it is heated, the bags are twisted and the melted lac drips out. Before the lac hardens it is stretched like toffee. After the lac hardens, it is broken up into pieces and sold. About 17,000 to 90,000 lac insects are needed to produce a pound of lac.

Besides shellac, lac is the basic ingredient of an amazing list of articles, stiffening agents in the toes and soles of shoes and felt hats, shoe polishes, artificial fruits, lithographic ink, glazes in confections, photograph records, playing card finishes, and hair dyes.

Thank goodness he's a dentist - and not a mohel

Via Presurfer.

29 August 2009

Well, you can't sue a tornado (or God), so...

(CN) - A family demands $10 million from Honda, claiming a side window shattered and injured them when a tornado picked up their Honda Odyssey, which "remained airborne for a few seconds before plummeting to the ground and landing on all four wheels. Upon impact, the driver's side passenger window shattered and glass flew into the car."

The Achumba family says the tempered glass Honda uses in side windows to reduce costs is not strong enough. They say Honda should use laminated glass, as it does for windshields.

They are represented by Jonathan Dailey of Surovell Markle & Isaacs of Fairfax, Va.
via The New Shelton, wet/dry.

4 equals 5

In a previous post, I showed that 4 = 3. Now this proof from Futility Closet demonstrates that 4 also equals 5.

If this interests you, now might be a good time to dig into TYWKIWDBI's (reasonably brief) math section.

Peck's Skipper (Polites peckius)

Skippers are ubiquitous butterflies, but often go unnoticed because they are not showy, and because they hover close to the ground and vegetation rather than soaring in the air. There are literally thousands of different varieties; the one above is a "Peck's Skipper," distinguished by the long yellow dash on the undersurface of its underwing ("to identify Pecks, look for the "x").

As evidenced by their group name, skippers are difficult to photograph because they seldom hold still for the camera. I was lucky to encounter the one above on a chilly morning when he was too torpid to fly away.

The photo enlarges nicely with a click.

Who will benefit from health care reform?

According to the Los Angeles Times, if current proposals are implemented, the biggest beneficiary will be the health insurance industry.
The half-dozen leading overhaul proposals circulating in Congress would require all citizens to have health insurance, which would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers -- many of whom would get government subsidies to help pay the companies' premiums...

"It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years... the industry's reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: "Hallelujah!"...

"The insurers are going to do quite well," said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst... "They are going to have this very stable pool, they're going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage and . . . they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide -- plus their administrative costs."

In May, the Senate Finance Committee discussed requiring that insurers reimburse at least 76% of policyholders' medical costs under their most affordable plans. Now the committee is considering setting that rate as low as 65%, meaning insurers would be required to cover just about two-thirds of patients' healthcare bills... Most [current] group health plans cover 80% to 90% or more of a policyholder's medical bills...

In the first half of 2009, the health service and HMO sector spent nearly $35 million lobbying Congress, the White House and federal healthcare offices, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics...
More at the link. This article prompted me to go to OpenSecrets.org and look up donations from the Health Care sector to the last group of Presidential candidates. Here are the numbers -

TYWKIWDBI has tried to be reasonably nonpartisan in terms of political discussions; if anything, I've been supportive of President Obama (in part because there haven't been any non-wacko alternatives). If you're reading this post and are dismayed that I'm being too critical of Obama by posting this $$ table, please read the post below this (re Bill Moyers' opinion) before commenting...

Bill Moyers speaks truth to power

Bill Moyers - award-winning journalist for 60 years - offers his trenchant insight into Washington politics during a discussion of health care reform:
MOYERS: I don’t think the problem is the Republicans . . . .The problem is the Democratic Party. This is a party that has told its progressives -- who are the most outspoken champions of health care reform -- to sit down and shut up...

And I think the reason for that is -- in the time since I was there, 40 years ago, the Democratic Party has become like the Republican Party, deeply influenced by corporate money. I think Rahm Emanuel, who is a clever politician, understands that the money for Obama’s re-election will come from the health care industry, from the drug industry, from Wall Street . . .

Money in politics -- you’ve had in the last 30 years, money has flooded politics . .. the Supreme Court saying "money is free speech." It goes back to the efforts in the 19th Century to give corporations the right of personhood -- so if you as a citizen have the right to donate to campaigns, then so do corporations. Money has flowed in such a flood into both parties that the Democratic Party gets a lot of its support from the very interests that -- when the Republicans are in power -- financially support the Republicans.

You really have essentially -- except for the progressives on the left of the Democratic Party – you really have two corporate parties who in their own way and their own time are serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests in the country...

Excerpted by Glenn Greenwald from Moyers' conversation with Bill Maher. More at the Greenwald link, which then links to the full interview.

Cannabis sales in Colorado

Medical marijuana has been technically legal in Colorado since 2000, when residents voted to add Amendment 20 to the state's constitution. The Bush Administration, however, always maintained a rigid stance that federal anti-drug laws took precedence over state rights. Regular DEA raids on medical marijuana distributors in states that legally permit such commerce effectively intimidated citizens who would have otherwise officially registered as patients or caregivers.

At the beginning of this year, only 2000 people had applied for Colorado's Medical Marijuana Registry since the system was established on 2001. In the past six months, the registry has grown to nearly 10,000...

Even though it passed the medical marijuana amendment nearly a decade ago, Colorado is just now entering a phase of transition that embraces that legal reality. The longtime lucrative blackmarket in a forbidden agricultural product is being legitimized--all the financial transactions that used to flow underground are now being raised to the taxable surface, creating a new era for an ancient industry...

Most of the farmers Kathleen works with have been cultivating their product illegally for many years--the oldest has been in the illicit business for 35, more than half have grown marijuana for over two decades. Now that they sell their product to a legal commercial enterprise, weed farmers will have to register their income and pay taxes on it, just like anyone growing tomatoes or tobacco...

Since marijuana farmers have begun selling exclusively to legitimate dispensaries, the underground market for illegal weed has been quashed, putting drug dealers out of business for lack of available stock. One such dealer I talked to in Boulder, who I will call Quark at his request, told me that with the supply of high-quality Colorado hydroponic weed redirected to dispensaries, he has only been able to procure cheap Mexican schwag for the past few months. Since the implications of indirect association with brutal Mexican cartels unsettles him, Quark is currently seeking a regular job so he will have money to pay tuition this year...
More info at The Atlantic, via The Daily Dish. Photo credit CNBC.

A compilation of movie special effects

I enjoy movies and movie montages. This one was created as an instructional item for a class. The films from which the clips were taken are listed at the end, and at YouTube (more info button).

The annoying sound track might make you appreciate your mute button.

Via Neatorama.

Standing Broom Only

28 August 2009

An iconic demonstration of swing dancing

From the 1941 movie "Hellzapoppin'."

For a video of the modern International Lindy Hop Championship, visit Stuff That Moves.

How hot is the inside of a tomato on a sunny day?

You'd never guess. An article at the New York Times today discusses the traditional way to store berries without having them turn moldy (dry them and refrigerate them), and then explains that extreme heat can also be useful...
I gathered a dozen or so reports that hot-water treatments suppress mold growth on berries, grapes and stone fruits. The test temperatures ranged from 113 to 145 degrees, with exposure times of a few minutes at the lower temperatures, and 12 seconds at the highest.

Why is it that delicate berries can survive heat high enough to kill mold and injure fingers? Probably because they have to do so in the field. One study of tomatoes found that intense sunlight raised their interiors to 122 degrees.

The "suicide cows" of Switzerland

In the picturesque Swiss village of Lauterbrunnen the locals are worried.

Dozens of alpine cows appear to be committing suicide by throwing themselves off a cliff near the small village in the Alps.

In the space of just three days 28 cows and bulls have mysteriously died after they plunged hundreds of metres to rocks below where they were killed instantly.

These are clearly not "suicides." The most reasonable explanation is that people or dogs/critters are spooking the cows and causing them to tumble over the cliffs.

Blogged because the event nicely illustrates one way ancient man obtained fresh meat. Archaic hunters, equipped with stone-tipped projectiles, were capable of killing deer and bison - but a much more efficient method involved driving herd animals toward a precipice. One such "bison kill site" is located in northern Minnesota at Itasca State Park. Details about the studies of that site are at this link.

Addendum: Vivi has provided a link to the more famous (and much more visually dramatic) Head-Smashed-In bison kill site in Alberta, Canada. The brief promotional video below shows the impressive cliff where the kills occurred...



Another nice example of erythrism

Previous examples here. This Chorthippus from Pixdaus, via Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.

Offered without comment...

At a town hall meeting Wednesday Sen. Jim Inhofe told Chickasha residents he does not need to read the 1,000 page health care reform bill, he will simply vote against it.

"I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways," he said.

Inhofe said public opinion and information provided by news media have helped him become a staunch non-supporter of the bill.

When endorphins wear off...

Via Arbroath.

Attorneys get 95% of settlement

A partial settlement was reportedly reached in Doe v. Mount Vernon Board of Education et al., the case in which a Mount Vernon, Ohio, teacher, was accused of inappropriate religious activity in the classroom — including displaying posters with the Ten Commandments and Bible verses, branding crosses into the arms of his students with a high-voltage electrical device, and teaching creationism. The Mount Vernon News (August 27, 2009) reported that "the board’s insurance company has agreed to pay $115,500 toward the plaintiffs’ legal fees, $5,500 to one of the plaintiffs as compensation and the sum of $1 each to two other individuals."

"Moon rock" is petrified wood

The Dutch national museum said yesterday that one of its prized possessions, a rock supposedly brought back from the moon by U.S. astronauts, is just a piece of petrified wood.

Rijksmuseum spokeswoman Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation that proved the piece was a fake, said the museum would keep it anyway as a curiosity...

The museum acquired the rock after the death of former Prime Minister Willem Drees in 1988. Drees received it as a private gift on Oct. 9, 1969 from then-U.S. Ambassador J. William Middendorf during a visit by the three Apollo 11 astronauts, part of their "Giant Leap" goodwill tour after the first moon landing.

Middendorf, who lives in Rhode Island, told Dutch broadcaster NOS news that he had gotten it from the U.S. State Department, but couldn't recall the details...

Researchers from Amsterdam's Free University said they could see at a glance that the rock was probably not from the moon. They followed the initial appraisal up with extensive testing.

"It's a nondescript, pretty-much-worthless stone," geologist Frank Beunk concluded in an article published by the museum.

27 August 2009

The Case of the Missing Frogs' Legs

It's been 14 years since a group of middle-schoolers on a field trip discovered frogs with bizarre leg malformations.. Some of the amphibians had extra hind legs that appeared as pale, shrunken imitations of normal limbs. Some were missing legs, or had legs that were partial or misshapen. In the months that followed, frogs with the same and even worse limb deformities were discovered in dozens of wetlands across Minnesota and Wisconsin, and it was learned that similar outbreaks were already under investigation in Canada's Quebec province.

Of immediate concern was the possibility that the deformities were being caused by a water contaminant that could affect other species, including humans. By the spring of 1997, several federal agencies and a number of academic researchers were working on the problem...

Now research on frogs with missing legs in England and Oregon — undertaken independently but arriving at identical conclusions — has found a common cause of missing legs in frogs.

They're being eaten off...
For the identity of the malefactor, go to the MinnPost link.

Facebook, Twitter - "Internet shopping for burglars"

Mr Fraser, a reformed thief, said: "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that burglars are using social networks to identify likely targets.

"They gain confidence by learning more about them, what they are likely to own and when they are likely to be out of the house.

"I call it 'internet shopping for burglars'. It is incredibly easy to use social neyworking sites to target people, and then scope out more information on their actual home using other internet sites like Google Street View, all from the comfort of the sofa."

"People are boasting about how they are having a fantastic time on a beach in Mexico on a webpage that has their home address.

"Criminals who put together the jigsaw can use it for identity theft or burglary. It is just as dangerous as leaving your windows or doors open at home."

Cousin Karl - is this you?

A photo from the festivities of La Tomatina.

Click for fullscreen. Credit - Jasper Juinen/Getty Images.

Burned tortoise

A victim of the forest fires in Greece.

Credit - Nikolas Giakoumidis/Associated Press.

Iridescent feathers - 40 million years ago

Known for their wide variety of vibrant plumage, birds have evolved various chemical and physical mechanisms to produce these beautiful colors over millions of years. A team of paleontologists and ornithologists led by Yale University has now discovered evidence of vivid iridescent colors in feather fossils more than 40 million years old.

Iridescence is the quality of changing color depending on the angle of observation, such as the rainbow of colors seen in an oil slick. The simplest iridescent feather colors are produced by light scattering off the feather's surface and a smooth surface of melanin pigment granules within the feather protein. Examining feather fossils from the Messel Shale in Germany with an electron microscope, scientists have documented this smooth layer of melanin structures, called melanosomes...

"Of course, the 'Holy Grail' in this program is reconstructing the colors of the feathered dinosaurs," said Yale graduate student and lead author Jakob Vinther. "We are working hard to determine if this will be possible."
More at the link, and prior work on this matter at this link. The photo is certainly of a modern feather or is digitally-altered for purposes of illustration. I'm impressed by the fineness of the clay/sediment in which the fossil feathers were preserved if it was able to preserve structures at the subcellular level.

Two pictures of deforestation

The upper ones depicts the Brazilian Mato Grosso, featured in a NYT slideshow decrying the area as a "global epicenter of deforestation."

The lower photo depicts New York City in 1932. Deforestation of Manhattan facilitated the growth of the city.

26 August 2009

Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller - video

Anne Sullivan explains and demonstrates how she taught Helen Keller to speak.

Via Kottke.

The ART of dog grooming

Earlier this week, when I posted an item expressing my dismay and disapproval of most "modern art," I was (politely) taken to task by some readers for being so blind to the varieties and innovative aspects of art, and for "failing to take it on its own terms."

I'm a quick learner. Today I encountered the pictures above in a gallery of seventeen photos of groomed poodles. I had intended to blog the item as a ridiculous display of garish monstrosities that is utterly demeaning to the intrinsic beauty of these noble creatures.

But I didn't do that. I read the article. And discovered that this is... wait for it... ART!!
At first glance they look like pandas, buffalos and camels, but these are all poodles that have been hilariously sheared and coloured in the name of art...

Amazingly it takes just two hours for the creative groomers to carve their masterpieces of out of dog's coats and add props as finishing touches...

The artistic owners - almost entirely women - colour their beloved dogs with powdered paint sprayed on using blow pens which is non permanent...

"I think these girls must just love the artistry that's involved."
These are masterpieces, commissioned by "artistic owners." I'm learning. I should also have blogged Paris Hilton's $300K doghouse as another artistic accomplishment rather than retching and passing on the item.

I'm learning. Just look at that adorable #3 above - she even has little butterflies hovering around her butt. Isn't that just precious? (Last week I would have missed the finer points of this artwork.)

Next I'm going to study up on tattoos and body modification...

Selections from "A Flapper's Dictionary" (1922)

Dimbox = A taxicab

Clothesline = One who tells neighborhood stories

Snugglepup = Young man who frequents petting parties

Petting party = Social event devoted to hugging

Finale hopper = Young man who arrives after all bills are paid

Sodbuster = An undertaker

Applesauce = Flattery or bunk

Forty-niner = Man who is prospecting for a rich wife

Tomato = Good looking girl with no brains

Cake-eater = Harmless lounge lizard

Mad money = Carfare home if she has a fight with her escort

Hikers = Knickerbockers

Grubstake = Invitation to dinner

Corn-shredder = Young man who dances on lady's feet

Dogs = Feet

Mouthpiece = Lawyer

Handcuff = Engagement ring

Cat's Pajamas = Anything that's good

Frog's eyebrows = Nice, fine

Plastered = A synonym for pie-eyed; oiled; intoxicated

There are many more at this link. Of the ones listed above, I believe "mad money", "dogs," and "plastered" have endured to the present; a few others (grubstake, cat's pajamas) are familiar to those who watch vintage movies.

False advertising

Found at the Telegraph's weekly "sign language" feature.

Talk about "Hard Times" ...

Found at the Telegraph's weekly "sign language" feature.

"But I wasn't stealing! I was gonna give it back..."

Police in the U.K. have begun a program to "teach careless people a lesson." When they encounter a vehicle that is unlocked with the windows down and valuable items in obvious view, they are authorized to take the material (to the police station), and leave a cautionary and explanatory note for the driver.
The shock tactics have been employed to encourage motorists to lock their vehicles. Officers have been told they can remove valuable items such as handbags, computers and satnavs, leaving a note telling the owner that they can pick the item up from a local police station.
It wouldn't surprise me that such tactics would be effective, but what startled me was the following tidbit of legalese. The police cannot be accused of theft, because...
...the law governing theft means that apart from taking someone else's goods, a person must intend to permanently deprive them of it to be found guilty of theft.
Really??? I wonder how well that defense would hold up in court if it were used by someone other than a law enforcement officer. Perhaps it's true. I've certainly never heard it expressed before.

Addendum: Nolandda has found the same provision in the State of Minnesota criminal code -
Minnesota Code > Chapter 609 — Criminal code > 609.52 — Theft.

Subd. 2. Acts constituting theft. Whoever does any of the following commits theft and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 3:

(1) intentionally and without claim of right takes, uses, transfers, conceals or retains possession of movable property of another without the other's consent AND with intent to deprive the owner PERMANENTLY of possession of the property...
So it's not just a U.K. thing. Caps emphasis mine, but still...Wow!

Addendum#2: Replies received by email from some attorney friends -
It's standard in United States law. In the ordinary case (with a non-police officer), there is a serious question whether the defendant is being truthful. In the United States, there are other protections against such police conduct, such as the fourth amendment's ban on searches and seizures without a warrant or the applicability of an exception to the warrant requirement, such as a seizure of contraband in connection with an arrest.

The language exists in Florida statutes and, I suspect, most common law jurisdictions. It makes theft a specific intent crime requiring the perp's intent to be proven as an element of the crime.

I suppose that is why many states have a joyriding statute to cover juveniles who take a car, but do not intend to keep it (do not intend to permanently deprive the owner of the property) in addition to the auto theft statutes.

I believe the officers could be charged with breaking and entering. They would have no right to enter the vehicle and seize property which is not related to a crime. (although many B&E statutes also require intent to commit a crime. I suppose the underlying crime could be trespass.)

The police conduct is unacceptable. I can't believe there is not a better means of educating the public to the hazards they face than to expose them to additional hazard by police officers.

"The Smaller Majority"

Several weeks ago I blogged a startling photograph of the Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko. Curious about the photographer and his work, I requested the book from our library. The Smaller Majority is a 300-page "coffee table" photo book detailing Piotr Naskrecki's life work of capturing images of the small creatures of savannas, deserts, and tropical forests. Unlike many similar books, this one has not only gorgeous images but also intelligent and interesting text.

Examples of "TYWK"-type information include these two tidbits -
1) Butterflies that "puddle" at muddy spots or collections of animal dung are seeking sodium, which is rarely found in plants (potassium is the principal cation in vegetation). "In extreme cases a moth may imbibe an amount of fluid 600 times its own weight in a single puddling session, expelling the excess water as it drinks and retaining only the precious [sodium]."
2) Ant lions (larvae of owl flies) catch and consume insects, but they "are missing two elements of the body that seem to be absolutely critical for any predator: the mouth and the anus."

The lower photo above is a pupa of an "unidentified Yponomentidae." The mesh-like cocoon that enfolds it is just awesome. There are lots of other pix like this in the book - mostly frogs, cockroaches, ants, spiders, mantids, katydids - things like that. You can see a small sample at his Flickr photostream.

An "all-edges" brownie pan

The photo should be self-explanatory, but for those still confused there is an explanation and comment thread at Gizmodo.

Addendum: I've just discovered that this item was posted at Neatorama back in 2006. The manufacturers also make a lasagna pan.

25 August 2009

Do real American men ride "step-through" bikes?

In an article at Slate today (with an accompanying video), current European "urban" bikes are reviewed, emphasizing the practical aspects of their upright posture, fenders, and chain guards. What most interested me was this comment:
(By the way, I specifically sought out bikes in a style Europeans refer to as "step-through," and we here in the States refer to as "women's." Step-through bikes are much easier to elegantly mount and dismount, they allow you to stand up in comfort when at a stoplight, and they eliminate all risk of brutally racking your testicles. The fact is, that crossbar on men's bikes doesn't serve much purpose if you're not a performance rider.)
Since I'm in the market for a new bike, should I consider the "step-through" style, or will I be laughed at by other bicyclists (and the general public) in suburban America?

Pharmacy, 1915

As with many Shorpy photos, it's best to explore the original in full-screen format.

"Prolonged diapering" as an interrogation technique?

The 2004 CIA inspector general’s report on torture says clearly that in 2002, the CIA proposed to the Justice Department the use of eleven “enhanced interrogation techniques"...

These techniques are, [sic] the attention grasp, walling, the facial hold, the facial slap (insult slap), the abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation beyond 72 hours, the use of diapers for prolonged periods, the use of harmless insects, the water board, and such techniques as may be specifically approved pursuant to paragraph 4 below...

Tenet considered “the use of diapers for limited periods (generally not to exceed 72 hours)” to be a “standard” technique...
Offered without comment.

Via J-Walk.

Encyclopedia of French musical comedy, 1918 - 1940

The website is entirely in French. Lots of photographs.

via Metafilter.

13-year old girls...

... are different from the way they were when I was 13 years old. This morning I heard a report on BBC radio about a controversy currently brewing in the Netherlands regarding whether 13-year-old Laura Decker should be permitted to sail around the world - alone.

Her parents support her in this decision, which would break the world record for the youngest person to accomplish such a feat (current record by a 17-year-old). She would need to miss two years of school, and she would sail without any support vessels beside/behind her. The Dutch public is reportedly split on this issue; many support her, while others consider it too dangerous and equivalent to child neglect.

TYWKIWDBI won't take any stand on this girl's situation, but the story reminded me of an item I read in my high school's alumni bulletin, regarding a young girl whom I'll just identify with initials here: "C--- K--- '15... won the 2009... Skating Competition. In her long program, K--- successfully landed seven double jumps, including a double-lutz, double-toe loop combination jump."

If she's in the class of 2015, she would also be 12-13 years old. For comparison, Dorothy Hamill and Peggy Fleming won Olympic figure skating gold medals without doing any double jumps. Now a 13-year-old does seven double jumps for just a regional competition. I'm sure the analogy could be extended to many other sports.

Update: The Dutch girl is now "under state care" for two months while an evaluation is underway, which prevents her from beginning the voyage.

Girl saved by pink socks

Story at Arbroath.

24 August 2009


A dancer waited to perform during festivities marking the start of the annual harvest festival of “Onam” in Kochi, India, Sunday. The festival symbolizes the return of mythical King Mahabali to meet his beloved subjects. (Sivaram V./Reuters)

Blogged for the color. Click to biggify. Via the WSJ's Photo Journal.

The law considers a corporation to be a "person"

On August 1st Democracy Unlimited filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging “corporate personhood,” the illegitimate and undemocratic legal doctrine which allows courts to overturn democratically elected laws that attempt to control corporate harm and abuse...

“The notion that corporations have the same speech rights as people under our Bill of Rights is contrary to the words, history, spirit and intent of our Constitution,” said Clements. “The organizations that joined to bring these arguments to the Court have worked with others for many years to empower democratic self-government. They remind us that corporations do not vote, speak, or act as people do, but are products of government policy to achieve economic and charitable ends. As such, corporations need not be allowed to influence our elections if Congress and State governments judge that such influence is detrimental to democracy.”

The Supreme Court is considering overturning federal campaign regulations for corporations, originally enacted in 1907, and may soon overrule previous Supreme Court decisions that have upheld the Constitutionality of legislative restrictions on corporate money in politics...

The brief filed by Democracy Unlimited argues that corporations are legal entities created by state or federal law for economic, charitable or other purposes, and were never intended to be included within the Constitution’s Bill of Rights...

More details and a long discussion thread at Reddit.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the case in September. Expect to hear more about this then, but you can get a head start now.

Stacked Parmesan cheese

"A view of the Credito Emiliano bank temperature-controlled vault stacked with aging Parmesan cheese in Montecavolo, near Reggio Emilia, Italy, Thursday Aug. 20, 2009. Row upon row of 39-kilogram (85-pound) wheels of straw-colored Parmesan cheese, stacked some 10 meters (33 feet) high at a secure warehouse, age for as many as two years under the care of bank employees trained in the centuries-old art of Parmesan making. Parmesan producers to pump cash into their business by using their product as collateral while it is otherwise sitting on a shelf for the long aging process. While the mechanism was not born out of the current economic crisis, dating rather from Italy's post-World War II years, producers say it is ever more important because it ensures that credit keeps flowing during otherwise tight times."

Photo credit AP, via Seattle PI (text), via Found Here.

Searching for flood victims

Sinkai, Taiwan, August 17, 2009--Soldiers smell the ground to detect bodies of flash flood victims after Typhoon Morakot inundated the southern village of Sinkai.

Credit to Reuters, via National Geographic, via Found Here.

Butter Bell

After you make your own butter, you'll need a place to store it. Consider the "butter bell" -
The butter bell is a small crock with a bell-shaped lid. You add some cool water to the bottom of the crock, then put your butter in the bell, turn it upside down and place it into the crock. The water forms a seal around the exposed butter to keep bacteria, insects, dust, and odors out. And you can forget ever putting cold butter in the microwave again, which leaves you with butter that’s more pourable than spreadable...
More details at Mental Floss.

Word for the day: gynandromorph

What interested me today was the bottom photo of the ?chrysanthemum. Presuming it hasn't been artificially fiddled with, it apparently represents some type of accidental hybrid, or a defect of some coloration gene occurring during development. The photo was at Pixdaus without a link, and I haven't found the photo elsewhere using the TinEye reverse image search.

The mum photo reminded me of the "gynandromorph" phenomenon (half female/half male). It's well known (though still rare) in butterflies, especially where the male and females have different coloration patterns, as in the tiger swallowtail at the top. The phenomenon is also evident in the Chesapeake Bay crab in the next photo and the cardinal below that.

Addendum: Dr. Mieke found the link for the chrysanthemum, which is, indeed, a genetic mutation. In her comment is a link for how you can do this artificially, for fun.

Addendum #2: See the comments by anonymous re the relationship (or not) of gynandromorphs to hermaphrodites and chimeras.
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