28 March 2010

7 hours, 55 posts

I'm exhausted.  See you next week.

This is not a scorpion

Something ran out from under a leaf. Tiny, like a springtail, but it didn't hop. Whenever I tried to pick it up with my skinny paintbrush, it raced backwards, as fast as it had been running forward.

Under a magnifying glass, it waved big, angular pincers at me, like a crab would. I captured it, finally, in a drop of water, then photographed it with the camera and the microscope.
To discover what it actually is, read the post at Wanderin' Weeta - an excellent nature blog.

Horse joins bike rally

Found in Johnny Cat's Litter Box (so to speak).

Are there needy vampires?

Found at Criggo, which has lots of similar items.  Enjoy.

New e-trade commercial

... in which the baby watches his buddy try to fund retirement with a scratch-off lottery entry.  I wish someone would make a compilation of all these ads.

Found at Anything and Everything.

That many??

Found at Miss Cellania's humor blog.

"Western Spaghetti"

A clever stop-animation video, found via Chris Tyrell's Blog.

Congratulations to Not Exactly Rocket Science

Ed Yong's accessible-to-the-intelligent-lay-person science blog has been named "Research Blog of the Year."  And his blog has now moved under the umbrella of Discover Magazine.   I've cited his blog on numerous occasions, but I encourage those of you with science interests to bookmark and visit the site on a regular basis because I can't begin to highlight all the good stuff there.

This looks like fun

"Tracking the return of a native species to Tennessee's Abrams Creek, snorkeling scientists search under flat rocks for the smoky madtom - a two-inch catfish." (Joel Sartore, © National Geographic)

The old swimming hole

A boy swims in the murky waters of Manila Bay March 21, 2010. (REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo)

There is something ineffably sad about this photograph (especially when it's placed in juxtaposition to the one above). 

From Boston.com's The Big Picture photoessay about water.

Head of the Statue of Liberty, Paris, 1883

Found at Atomic Antiques.

Satellite photos of the world's rivers

Pictured above is the Birdsfoot Delta of the Mississippi River.  Many others photos are assembled at Wired Science, some of them resembling abstract art rather than images of nature.

Love Field

Posted because I lived for several years in an apartment under the flight path on the south side of Love Field (apartments on Bowser and Cedar Springs, if any locals are curious).

Postcard found at Atomic Antiques.

I guess these would be called "boobytraps"

"Explosives experts have reportedly said just five ounces of Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate packed into a breast implant would be enough to blow a “considerable” hole in the side of a jumbo jet. It would be virtually impossible for airport security scanners to detect the explosive if hidden inside a breast, medics have said."
Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

The Fibonacci sequence of the sunflower

The video above is the impressive "Nature by Numbers" video, which almost everyone has posted this week.  The Nautilus and sunflower analogies are pretty well known, though this was my first encounteer with the mathematics of a dragonfly's wing.

Here's some additional commentary on the sunflower's remarkable structure:

In order to optimize the filling [of the flower head with seeds], it is necessary to choose the most irrational number there is, that is to say, the one the least well approximated by a fraction. This number is exactly the golden mean. The corresponding angle, the golden angle, is 137.5 degrees. (It is obtained by multiplying the non-whole part of the golden mean by 360 degrees and, since one obtains an angle greater than 180 degrees, by taking its complement). With this angle, one obtains the optimal filling, that is, the same spacing between all the seeds.

This angle has to be chosen very precisely: variations of 1/10 of a degree destroy completely the optimization. When the angle is exactly the golden mean, and only this one, two families of spirals (one in each direction) are then visible: their numbers correspond to the numerator and denominator of 2 consecutive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence, which is proved to converge toward the Golden Mean value of 1.6180339... (in the picture we have 21/34, the 7th and 8th terms of the Fibonacci sequence).

Moreover, generally the petals of flowers are formed at the extremity of one of the families of spiral (true, I count 34 for this sunflower). This then is also why the number of petals corresponds on average to a Fibonacci number.
Via the Flickr photostream of lucapost, whence also the illustrative image below.

Extraordinary polydactyly

"On 22nd March, 2010, A chinese boy From Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning province, showed his weird fingers and toes. He has a total of 31 fingers and toes, 7 fingers in left hand, 8 in right hand and 8 toes in each foot. He has broken the earlier record of 25 fingers and toes. He is currently in Shenjing hospital and ready for an operation."

One can't help but wonder whether occurrences like this reflect merely a small probability event occurring in an immense population, or whether it suggests effects of environmental problems.

TED talk about Mars

"Planetary scientist Joel Levine shows some intriguing -- and puzzling -- new discoveries about Mars: craters full of ice, traces of ancient oceans, and compelling hints at the presence, sometime in the past, of life. He makes the case for going back to Mars to find out more."

A history of Palestine

I've entitled this "a" history rather than "the" history, because there are many possible histories (of everything) depending on who collates and presents the information.  The person presenting in this video is John Rees, a leftist anti-war political activist, a former member of the Socialist Workers Party, and an occasional presenter on the Islam channel.  If those credentials offend you, you might as well skip the video, because you won't enjoy it.

State-backed assassination

State-backed assassination — the extrajudicial killing of an enemy outside a war zone — has long been regarded as illegal and immoral. Yet that principle is now being undermined as governments increasingly turn to the bomb and bullet rather than the law to destroy their adversaries.

In 1976 President Ford issued an executive order banning political assassinations. When Mossad launched Operation Wrath of God, tracking down and killing the Palestinian terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympics massacre in Lebanon, France and Norway, the US was sharply critical.

n July 2001, the US Ambassador to Israel declared: “The United States Government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassination ... They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that.”

After 9/11, George W. Bush was granted broad executive powers to combat terrorism around the world, and under Barack Obama the programme of killing using drones has accelerated sharply...

America’s preferred euphemism is “targeted killing”; on the ground the procedure is called “find, fix and finish”. The Obama Administration prefers the term “elimination” to “assassination”, yet that is what is taking place...

The legal basis for drone strikes is also murky. Assassination may be justifiable in time of war, but the CIA is a civilian organisation, and the US is not at war with Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. Winston Churchill was acutely aware of the dangers inherent in political assassination. Presented with an opportunity to attempt to kill off Hitler in 1942, he declined...
More in the op-ed piece at the link.

Skirt lifters

"In a difficult passage, the lady gently took the chain in her hands and raised the bottom of her skirt without having to stoop, which was considered indecent for the time."
Another example shown, and the method of use illustrated, at Titam et le Sirop d'Erable (via Google translator).


A Kay Nielson illustration for ??what story.*  Posted because I now have cabbages sprouting.  They are hardy plants that will tolerate the intermittent chills of a Wisconsin spring.  I sprinkled about a hundred seeds in a flat of 18 containers, and must have over 80 seedlings already; will need to thin out for just the strongest ones probably next week.  Planted not for the family, but to attract and raise Cabbage Whites (butterflies).

Image credit.

A hat tip to Nolandda, who tracked down the image as an illustration for Felicia and the Pot of Pinks from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book:

More Kay Nielson illustrations

Felicia; or, The Pot of Pinks
"This good Fairy placed her own baby in a cradle of roses and gave command to the zephyrs to carry him to the tower"
"Princess Minon-Minette rides out in the world to find Prince Souci"
Like the "cabbages" one above, these come from "In Powder and Crinoline," published in 1912.  From a comprehensive assemblage at Golden Age Comic Book Stories.

I've decided to spend some of my bandwidth to embed the large images, so if you like them, click the pix for greater enjoyment.

Springtime. On Mars.

Spring has sprung on Mars, bringing with it the disappearance of carbon dioxide ice (dry ice) that covers the north polar sand dunes. In spring, the sublimation of the ice (going directly from ice to gas) causes a host of uniquely Martian phenomena.

In this image streaks of dark basaltic sand have been carried from below the ice layer to form fan-shaped deposits on top of the seasonal ice. The similarity in the directions of the fans suggests that they formed at the same time, when the wind direction and speed was the same. They often form along the boundary between the dune and the surface below.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona. Via Found Here.

Military humor

"Any ship can be a minesweeper. Once." — Maritime Ops Manual

"Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do." — Unknown Marine Recruit

"The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire." —Unknown Author

More at Military Wisdom, Via within the crainium.

The Karner Blue

The "Karner" Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) is one of the butterflies described and named by Vladimir Nabokov.
The Karner Blue is a small butterfly with an average wingspan of 25 mm. The males are an iridescent violet blue, the females are gray brown often glossed with blue, with a submarginal band of bright orange chevrons to which melissa owes its common name, Orange-margined Blue. The adults live only four or five days. They come in two broods, with adult flights in late May to early June and late July to early August at Karner and throughout the range, settling on moist sandy ground, drinking at puddles and sipping the nectar of Pine Bush flowers. When the Karner Blue was still abundant, it flew in large flocks of hundreds or thousands. The only foodplant its caterpillars feed on is wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis L.). This makes it a highly specialized insect, vulnerable to changes in the ecosystem that affect the wild lupine.
Posted for the Crazy Cat Lady.  Via Uncertain Times. Top photo credit Bill Bouton (2008) and lower one Dave Hanson in Eau Claire, Wisconsin 2008.

Cleverly skirting trademark restrictions

In late 2009, lululemon released a line of clothing named the "Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition", an apparent reference to the 2010 Winter Olympics. The name does not infringe Canada's Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act in that it does not use the terms "Olympic(s)", "Vancouver", "2010", or any other term protected under that law. Representatives from the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, while acknowledging that no explicit infringement had taken place, nevertheless expressed disappointment at lululemon's tactic.

Zodiacal light

Zodiacal light, featured near the center of this remarkable panorama, is produced as sunlight is scattered by dust in the Solar System's ecliptic plane... In the picture, the narrow triangle of Zodiacal light extends above the western horizon and seems to end at the lovely Pleiades star cluster. Arcing above the Pleiades are stars and nebulae along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy.
I've never seen this, but perhaps there's too much light pollution where I've been (plus I didn't even know it existed to look for it).  You learn something every day.

Portuguese Man o’ War

Posted because I had a "close encounter" with some of the invisible tentacles during a family vacation in Florida as a child.  I almost want to think every person should experience just a little welt just once in order to gain a fuller appreciation of these remarkable creatures.

Via one of my favorite nature blogs, Moqo-Moqo.

Cary Grant used to drop acid

The things you learn wandering the web.  Perhaps this is common knowledge, but it had escaped me before this week.  Herewith some excerpts from an interesting post at WFMU's Beware of the Blog:
"I knew Cary Grant very well and he loved ... what did they call it? Acid! LSD. He said he liked to take the trip." - Debbie Reynolds

He convinced wholesome movie starlets like Esther Williams and Dyan Cannon to blow their minds. When Ladies Home Journal and Good Housekeeping interviewed him, the topic of conversation wasn't Cary's favorite recipe or "the problem with youth today." Instead, Cary Grant was telling happy homemakers that LSD was the greatest thing in the world...

In one LSD dream I shit all over the rug and shit all over the floor. Another time I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from earth like a spaceship ... I seemed to be in a world of healthy, chubby little babies' legs and diapers, smeared blood, a sort of general menstrual activity taking place...  I used it about one hundred times before it became illegal. Each session lasted about six hours ... My intention in taking LSD was to make myself happy. A man would be a fool to take something that didn't make him happy ... He had one regret. "Oh, those wasted years; why didn't I do this sooner?"

Look magazine followed in September with The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant. Even Good Housekeeping weighed in on the manner in 1960. A banner on their cover (above a photo of a child hugging a puppy) advertised CARY GRANT - The Secrets of His "Second Youth," the secret being LSD...

Cary Grant was a voice of reason. "I've heard that a man here and there died during LSD25 sessions; but then I've heard that men died during poker games and while watching horse racing; but that didn't seem to stop such occupations. Those men might have died anywhere while doing anything. Men have also died testing airplanes and parachutes, vaccines and common cold cures..."

Cary Grant's drug indulgences were reserved exclusively for acid. He never had a bad word to say about psychedelics. At the same time, he had nothing but contempt for marijuana and its habitual users...
MUCH more at the link, which unfortunately is written with a headache-inducing white font on black background, but the content is excellent.


With the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures, TYWKIWDBI will soon be featuring more butterfly/moth posts.  We'll be raising monarchs and swallowtails, and hopefully this year some sulphurs.  Pictured above is the chrysalis of the cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae) (credit M. Hedin), which I found in a short photoessay on the subject at The Ark in Space, via Webphemera.  Like the swallowtail, it supports itself with that incredibly thin, almost invisible, harness of silk.

"Specialization is for insects"

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

--Robert Heinlein

Via La Mia Bambina e Tecno

Addendum:While checking the source, I just found an outstanding compendium of Heinlein quotes at Wikiquotes.

Some caterpillars can breathe underwater

Unlike other amphibious creatures that can survive underwater on stored oxygen but must come back up for air, these caterpillars can spend several weeks without ever breaking the surface...

It isn't yet clear how the insects do it. Rubinoff and co-worker Patrick Schmitz of the University of Hawaii did not find any water-blocking stopper over the caterpillars' tracheae or evidence of gills. The animals drowned quickly when kept in standing water, so they seem to need the higher levels of oxygen present in running water, and probably absorb it directly through pores in their body...

Why Obama's signature looks so shaky

The President used over 20 different pens to sign the health care legislation.
The rationale is fairly simple. The pen used to sign historic legislation itself becomes a historical artifact. The more pens a President uses, the more thank-you gifts he can offer to those who helped create that piece of history. The White House often engraves the pens, which are then given as keepsakes to key proponents or supporters of the newly signed legislation. When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, he reportedly used more than 75 pens...

Not every President goes for the multipen signature, however. President George W. Bush preferred signing bills with only one pen and then offering several unused "gift" pens as souvenirs. Even a piece of legislation as famous as the Homeland Security Act got only one line of ink. When it was over, the President is rumored to have pocketed it.
Personally I think all of this is rather silly.  I suppose I could offer a rant about the waste of taxpayer money for the pens and for the time/salary of the lady depicted in the video, but I suppose there are more important things to save my outrage for.  Still, kudos to GWB for taking a more sensible approach.

Is it too early for a drink?

Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man (1934)

“Would you like a drink?”
“It’s a little early, isn’t it?”
“Too early for a drink?”
“No! Too early for stupid questions! Of course I want a drink!”

[Note: The quotation above doesn't match the scene in the movie - see comment thread].

Found at Old Hollywood.

The 1962 Seattle World's Fair had a "Gayway"

Nowadays the amusement area would have a different name.

Via the Flickr photostream of What Makes The Pie Shops Tick.

The Muslim view of Moses

Moses is called Musa in Arabic. He is also called "Kalim Allah" (One who spoke with God). He is the most mentioned prophet in the Qur'an.  The Muslim narrative about the exodus story is detailed and has a strong parallel to the Biblical narrative. Some excerpts from the Qur’an are given below.

Moses' Childhood
"And We had already conferred favor upon you another time, when We inspired to your mother what We inspired, [Saying], ‘Cast him into the chest and cast it into the river, and the river will throw it onto the bank; there will take him an enemy to Me and an enemy to him.’ And I bestowed upon you love from Me that you would be brought up under My eye...

The Burning Bush
"And has the story of Moses reached you? – When he saw a fire and said to his family, “Stay here; indeed, I have perceived a fire; perhaps I can bring you a torch or find at the fire some guidance. And when he came to it, he was called, “O Moses, indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals. Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwā. And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed [to you]. Indeed, I am God. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.” (20: 9-14)

Moses and his brother Aaron confront Pharaoh
"So go to him and say, ‘Indeed, we are messengers of your Lord, so send with us the Children of Israel and do not torment them. We have come to you with a sign from your Lord. And peace will be upon he who follows the guidance." (20:47)
More at the StarTribune column "Passover Seder Through Muslim Eyes."

Flat feet

"Flat feet kept many an American recruit out of active service during World War I, but medical examiners at the Episcopal Hospital in Washington, D.C., were looking for evidence of problems with the bones and joints of draftees and volunteers."
Photograph by Lieutenant Reid, Washington, D.C., 1918. From The Face of Mercy - A Photographic History of Medicine at War.

Via (OVO).

Miss Amy Pascoe, golf champion, 1896

Mary, Queen of Scots, whose Stuart ancestors were golfers, played in the fields round Seton Palace in 1567. That even earlier in the same century golf had elicited the approval of another queen, is proved by a very interesting letter of Katherine to Cardinal Wolsey, written at the time King Henry VIII. invaded France. I am indebted to the Rev. Mr. Kerr's valuable book on "Golf in East Lothian" for this epistle, dated August 13, 1513; it is as follows : "Master Almoner, from hence I have nothing to write to you but that you be not so busy in this war as we be here incumbered with it. I mean that touching my own concerns, for going further, when I shall not so often hear from the king. And all his subjects be very glad. I thank God, to be busy with the golf, for they take it for pastime; my heart is very good to it, and I am horribly busy making standards, banners, and bagets." The quaintly expressive phrase, "My heart is very good to it," remits to us a pleasant memory of a queen's grateful content with the sport which kept her subjects quiet and amused.

We have no authentic account of women playing for aught but the love of the game, until incited thereto by the Musselburgh Golf Club. That primeval innocence should have no chance, you will note two handkerchiefs - silk ones - were added to the other premiums. The minute, dated December 14, 1810, runs : "The Club resolve to present by subscription a new Creel and Shawl to the best female golfer who plays on the annual occasion on 1st Jan. next, old style (12 Jan. new), to be intimated to the Fish Ladies by the Officer of the Club."
This reminds me that the Masters is coming up in a couple weeks, and my invitation hasn't arrived yet.  Perhaps they've lost my address.  Again.


Corset, 1895

From the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, via Historical Fashion.

Is "pyroclastic" a dirty word?

According to Harper's, it is on "a 'blacklist' file included with the latest edition of Crossword Compiler, a British computer program for designing various word puzzles. The file prevents blacklisted words from appearing randomly."

I can understand their wishing to avoid bonk, fanny, rogering, stiffy, wee-wee, shtup and a few others, but many of the words appear to be unnecessary inclusions - especially "pyroclastic."  Perhaps it has a connotation that I'm unaware of. 

Via Wordnik.

Wasps and ladybug larvae

Jacques Brodeur, professor of biology, stated that “these insects take by force the helpless ladybugs and force them to incubate the eggs of their larvae between their legs. This is common among insects, but the curious thing is that they do not kill the host, rather they “kidnap” them. Then they set them free. ”

He continued, stating that “It’s fascinating that the ladybug, Coccinella maculata, is partially paralyzed by the parasite but is finally released unharmed” and claims that “The wasp larvae hatch between the legs of the ladybugs and only leave when matured. Once free, the ladybug can continue eating and playing as if nothing had happened. ”
The term incubate implies warmth, which would seem to be irrelevant (and probably the fault of the translator rather than the scientist, as is the word "parasite" in this connotation); perhaps the ladybug larvae protect the wasp eggs from predation.

In the photo (from the link), those do not look like wasp eggs; they look like ladybug eggs (it probably was the only photo available).  Still, an interesting anecdote about an enforced commensalism.

When the amnesia of dementia is a good thing

An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path. He wasn't sure of which direction to go, and he'd forgotten both where he was traveling to...and who he was. He'd sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him.

She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke: "Now your third wish. What will it be?" "Third wish?" The man was baffled. "How can it be a third wish if I haven’t had a first and second wish?"

"You’ve had two wishes already," the hag said, "but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That’s why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes." She cackled at the poor man. "So it is that you have one wish left."

"All right," he said hesitantly, "I don't believe this, but there's no harm in trying. I wish to know who I am."

"Funny," said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. "That was your first wish..."
Anecdote credit to doriangray.

"Where would you like a back door?"

"Who's there?"
"It's my husband!"
"Quick, where's the back door?"
"We don't have a back door."
"Where would you like one?"

Photo and joke via hytam2's Flickr photostream.

The physics of free-throw shooting

Brancazio explains that you need 45 degrees plus half the angle formed by a straight line between the position of the ball at launch and the basket. Depending on your height and where you are on the court, that typically ranges from 7 to 14 degrees. Thus, for a shot leaving your hands at eight feet above the floor from 18 feet out, you'll want to launch the ball at a bit more than 48 degrees. For most players at a distance of 10 to 25 feet, the least-effort angle ranges between 47 and 52 degrees.

Using that system, you can calculate the ideal free-throw angle. It's 13.75 feet from the free-throw line to the center of the basket, and a 6-foot player launches the ball from about seven feet above the hardwood. That works out to a shooting angle of 51 degrees. 
This sounds nerdy and trivial, but there are some interesting points in the article, including the importance of backspin on a successful basketball shot.

More at the Washington Post, via Kottke.

Murder By Television

Via Suddenly.

Girl carries her brother in bag on a zip line

I'm in awe of this little girl, who does this every day in order to go to school.  Schoolchildren in this country don't appreciate what a good thing they have.
More than 1,300ft above the roaring Rio Negro in Colombia, nine-year-old Daisy Mora prepares to throw herself over the abyss.

Attaching herself to an old and rusted pulley system she drops over the edge before plummeting at 40mph along a zip wire to the opposite bank half a mile away - a vertigo-inducing journey she has to take every day to get to school...

Farmers use them to transport goods to and from the closest town and, for children like Daisy and her five-year-old brother Jamid, it is how they get to school.

Jamid is too young to safely ride the wire on his own, so she has to carry him with her in a jute bag, controlling their speed with a wooden fork.
Via Neatorama.

The grikes of Tsingy de Bemaraha

This is a very cool graphic from National Geographic showing how these most unusual rock formations of western Madagascar formed (carved by groundwater erosion, not by precipitation).

I've embedded a smaller gif to save my bandwidth; those interested in the process can read the details in this larger version.

(I'll bet when you woke up this morning you didn't even know what a grike was.  Neither did I.)

Via Geology Rocks.

A tip of the hat to Randomscrub, who notes that Titan also has karst topography!

Kneeling on pebbles

Via Senses Like Snakes.

"Catch and Wreck" - a new "game"

When the kids ripped Moore's hat off during the attack, she said they called her a "bald-headed b----." When she begged for the hat back, they stomped on it.

When she told them her son had died, that she'd been through so much already, she said they taunted her with his death.

And when she begged for mercy, they showed her none.

Police said they arrested one 12-year-old girl for the assault and have the names of another 12-year-old girl and an 11-year-old boy who were involved...

"Then they took a stick and knocked me in the knees until I fell down," she said. "They kicked me in the back. I was crying and begging for these people to stop and they just wouldn't stop.

Police learned through interviews that the beatings were a twisted "game" called "Catch and Wreck."

Moore said she was upset to hear she wasn't the first victim.

"I don't know if these kids hate society or hate life itself but I cannot believe they could do that to someone," she said. "Where is all that hatred coming from when you're only 11 or 12?"
Offered without comment. I'd love to rant about this, but there isn't time. Res ipsa loquitur.

Walk right in

"Old Helensburgh railway station closed in 1915.  Helensburgh, NSW, Australia."

Found at -yury-'s Flickr photostream, where the larger version is even more intriguing.

Removing St. Erasmus' small intestine

"Martyrdom of St Erasmus" by Dieric Bouts the Elder ca.1458, Sankt Peterskerk, Louvain.

This guy was tougher than Rasputin:
...he was "put into a pan seething with rosin, pitch, brimstone lead, and oil, [which were] pour[ed] ... into his mouth, [from] ... which he never shrinked." A searing hot cloak and metal coat were both tried on him, to no effect, and an angel eventually carried him away to safety."

His teeth were ... plucked out of his head with iron pincers. And after that they bound him to a pillar and carded his skin with iron cards, and then they roasted him upon a gridiron...and did smite sharp nails of iron in his fingers, and after, they put out his eyes of his head with their fingers, and after that they laid this holy bishop upon the ground naked and stretched him with strong withes bound to horses about his blessed neck, arms, and legs, so that all his veins and sinews that he had in his body burst."
He recovered from all that and more, but reportedly died when his small intestine was wound out on a windlass.  Wiki notes that "this late legend may have developed from interpreting an icon that showed him with a windlass, signifying his patronage of sailors."

Found at All Things Beautiful.

Treetop walkway - a century ago!

I thought treetop walkways were modern inventions (Kew has one), but this postcard from British Columbia shows one in use in the early 1900s.  I'll bet it was scary on a windy day.

Via Vintage Postcard Blog.

Mutilated money (1910)

One doesn't want to cast unjustified aspersions on distinguished gentlemen of the past, but one has to wonder how often during the incineration of damaged bills a few packets of them might have accidentally slipped into a coat pocket.

Via Lapham's Quarterly.

A May-December marriage

The Unequal Marriage, a painting by Vasily Pukirev (1862).  (via)
There are a surprisingly high number of slang terms for persons involved in such relationships.

Sunday smörgåsbord

OMG I can't believe how many links have accumulated in the past week.  I count 96.  Cyberspace is just not a place for compulsive accumulators with limited time resources.  Anyway, here's the linkdump of "leftovers" - things that don't require pictures or much explanation.   Photo found at Old Hollywood.

Paleontologists have uncovered what they believe is the oldest stone wall made by humans.  It partially blocked the entrance to a cave in Thessaly, and was constructed about 23,000 years ago.

A man attempting to be a Good Samaritan was robbed by scumbags in England while he was trying to save what he thought was a drowning child.

A discussion thread re why David Attenborough's voice is replaced by celebrity narrators when some BBC series are released in America.  There may be technical reasons for doing so, but I for one would prefer to seek out and purchase the Attenborough originals.

Glenn Greenwald discusses and trashes the accusations that Chrisitane Amanpour cannot be an objective host of the This Week television program, in part because she grew up in Iran and her family fled from Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.

Undercover police officers jumped out of an unmarked car, ambushing a man.  He ran away thinking he was about to be robbed or assaulted, so they shot him in the back of the head.  He wasn't guilty of anything; he was a pastor giving a ride to a member of his congregation who was a drug suspect.

This isn't a "TYWK" because everyone else has blogged it - video of President Bush shaking hands with a Haitian, then wiping his hands on Bill Clinton's shirt.  It's been explained elsewhere that this isn't a race-thing, it's a cleanliness-thing.  Whatever.

An article at Der Spiegel examines whether or not prostitution really occurred in the religious temples of ancient civilizations.

This video is called "Roof Sex."  It may or may not be safe-for-work at your workplace; if in doubt, you might mute the sound.

A man went into a frenzy in an Indiana supermarket, stabbing the meat with a knife and throwing it on the floor.  "Coffman told police that he is a vegetarian and gets upset when others consume beef, telling the employee that God sent him to ruin the meat and that he was trying to save little girls from food he believes would make them “chubby.”

Got Medieval disagrees with the story spreading widely on the 'net this week that portrayals of the Last Supper document progressively increasing food portions over the centuries.  It's not that simple, in part because the sizes of things (heads, hands, Jesus) in older paintings were larger because they were considered more important.

Wired Magazine has a 6-page article about the ingenious thief who stole the Sisi Star from an Austrian castle in 1998.  It's a true story.

21 March 2010

A sun pillar

The vertical column of light is created when sunlight reflects/refracts off ice crystals in the atmosphere.  I posted a collection of such photos last year.  The one above is a recent Astronomy Photo of the Day.

The cautionary tale of Pauline and the Matches

Lewis Lapham explains:
German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann wanted to read his kids to sleep with a storybook that was both entertaining and instructional, so he wrote and illustrated the first edition of what was to become Der Struwwelpeter, a picture book of moralizing fairy tales where the children don’t always meet happy endings.
Here's an excerpt:
Now, on the table close at hand,
A box of matches chanced to stand,
And kind Mamma and Nurse had told her,
That if she touched them they would scold her;
But Pauline said, "Oh, what a pity!
For, when they burn, it is so pretty...

When Minz and Maunz, the little cats, saw this,
They said, "Oh, naughty, naughty Miss!"
And stretched their claws,
And raised their paws;
"Tis very, very wrong, you know;
Me-ow, me-o, me-ow, me-o!
You will be burnt if you do so,
our mother has forbidden you, you know. "

Now see! oh! see, what a dreadful thing
The fire has caught her apron-string;
Her apron burns, her arms, her hair;
She burns all over, everywhere...

So she was burnt with all her clothes,
And arms and hands, and eyes and nose;
Till she had nothing more to lose
Except her little scarlet shoes;
And nothing else but these was found
Among her ashes on the ground.
For the rest of the text, visit Lapham's Quarterly (which has LOTS of interesting stuff).

Image credit to Omega's photostream.

Addendum: A hat tip to Keith, who found a muscial version of the poem.

Swarming robots pulling a child

I must be getting old; I didn't even know there were swarm bots. Or that you could use them to move children from room to room.

And for the first time (ever?) there is a funny and appropriate comment in the YouTube thread:
"Take her to the protein vats in organics processing lab 4."

Aviation oxygen mask

It looks ever so much like a modern nasal CPAP mask.

Via Sloth Unleashed.

A postmortem photo of a little girl with a drum

Twice last year I posted examples of postmortem photos (here, and here).  I'll do one more in order to show this tinted daguerrotype of Sarah Lawrence from the mid-nineteenth century.
Certain conventions, such as flowers in one hand or a recumbent pose, are typical of early postmortem portraiture, and were not generally used in portraits of the living. The cloth behind this girl is another fairly good sign of a postmortem photograph; the wrinkles in it show she was lying down or propped up against it...

Posthumous mourning painting was a socially acceptable part of American and European culture in the 19th century. The environments of these paintings varied from clouds to scenes of everyday life. This practice and style of representation continued in photography. In “posthumous mourning photography,” however, the range of possible presentation was limited. In paintings, any scene could be presented because it was a secondary rendition limited only by the imagination and talent of the artist. In many of these paintings, however, the deceased was presented with an object associated with death, such as a clock, wilted flower or willow tree. This daguerreotype uses a drum as the death-associated object...

From Sleeping Beauty II - Grief, Bereavement and the Family in Memorial Photography by Stanley B. Burns, M.D.
Via (OVO).

First butterfly of the year


The Mourning Cloak ("Nymphalis antiopa"), known to Brits as the "Camberwell Beauty," is always our first butterfly because it overwinters (probably under loose bark on trees) here in Wisconsin and other northern states, and doesn't need to migrate in from southern climes. At this time of year there are no significant flowers for it to nectar on, so it has adapted by getting nutrition from tree sap. Anyone who has enjoyed maple syrup (Sirop d'Erable) can understand the potential nutritional value of tree sap.

The food plants are in the willow family (willow, poplar, elm, birch), and the caterpillar is known as the "spiny elm caterpillar," feeding gregariously on those trees. I've not been able to locate caterpillars or eggs, so have not raised these, but would love to do so, because they are very handsome creatures.

Photo credit. Distribution map credit.

Update: I wrote this post on April 9 of 2009, and am reposting now because we've already seen our first Mourning Cloak on March 16 this year during a stretch of unusually warm (60+ degree) weather.   The following day we saw a thoroughly anomalous appearance of a Cabbage White, which had emerged from an overwintering chrysalis a full month ahead of schedule.

Secret passageways for your home

Pictured above is an offering from the Creative Home Engineering company.  Other doors hidden in bookshelves are depicted at Hide A Door, and other relevant links are assembled at Spot Cool Stuff.

2010 Winter Paralympics

Boston.com's The Big Picture has a 40-image photoset depicting participants in the recent Paralympics.  Pictured above a U.S. slalom standing athlete and a Japanese hockey player.

Photo credits top (AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Dominic Favre) and bottom (Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images).
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