29 July 2013


"Kummakivi" is the Finnish word for "Strange Rock."  This one is clearly a glacial erratic, photographed in southern Savonia in Finland. The small metal sign affixed to the stone above the man's head reads (in Finnish) "Protected by the Nature Conservancy." 

Photo credit to Retkipaikka.fi.  At the link are some additional photos of the stone and the adjacent region.

"Birthright citizenship" is rare

A world map depicting which countries grant automatic citizenship to persons born in the country.  It's obviously not as common as Americans think.

Found at The Land of Maps, via Fuck Yeah Cartography.

Former "Reject"

TYWKIWDBI tries to rigorously avoid blogging about celebrities, but we will make an exception today to share this photo of a young man who at age 14 was a member of the Cherokee Rejects basketball team in Springfield, Missouri.  The more perspicacious among you will recognize the face of a now world-famous man; the rest can find the answer at Retronaut, or below this fold...

Edwardian hairstyles

Part of a larger gallery at The Vintage Thimble, via Edwardian Era.

Subtypes of geochemists

I don’t know who came up with this — it’s been bouncing around science journals for 50 years:

Hydromicrobiogeochemist: one who studies small underwater flora and their relationship to underlying rock strata by using chemical methods.

Microhydrobiogeochemist: one who studies flora in very small bodies of water and their relationship to underlying rock strata by using chemical methods.

Microbiohydrogeochemist: one who studies small flora and their relationship to underlying rock strata by using chemical methods and SCUBA equipment.

Biohydromicrogeochemist: a very small geochemist who studies the effect of plant life in hydrology.

Hydrobiomicrogeochemist: a very small geochemist who studies wet plants.

Biomicrohydrogeochemist: a very small, wet geochemist who likes lettuce.
Found in the Futility Closet.

How to take small portions of condiments on a picnic

It's very annoying to make a great sandwich with mayonnaise and later find the bread soggy.  Lifehacker shows a simple way to transport small quantities of ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise for application just before consumption.


This morning I found two excellent websites devoted to hay.

Hay in Art has links to essays, poems, maps, paintings, and photographs of hay-related material.
The wonderfully varied symbolic and metaphoric associations of hay mirror its cultural and economic importance in the history of humanity. Hay has variously symbolized wealth and poverty, sexuality, love, life and death. The somewhat dated saying in our own culture "That ain't hay" (meaning "that's not entirely worthless") is remotely connected to the beliefs and rituals of the Low Countries of Europe over half a millennium ago. 
There's lots of material there to be perused (and blogged), since I'm a big fan of hay.  I need to go back later to learn things and harvest some material.

And for those (few) interested in the day-to-day aspects of creating and maintaining a hayfield, there is a lot of practical information at Haying FAQ.

Photo from Marisio Pepi, via First Time User and A London Salmagundi.

"Bunny boiler" explained

I encountered "bunny boiler" for the first time in the subtitle of a Telegraph article:

Lisa Jewell on literary bunny-boilers

Had to look it up:
The slang term "bunny boiler" has passed into popular parlance as a term for a jealous mistress, based on [Fatal Attraction's] infamous rabbit boiling scene. The phrase's first use in print was on December 6, 1990 in The Dallas Morning News, in which Glenn Close described her character in that film using the term.
...we witness Beth Gallgher’s (Anne Archer) walk to the hob, taking the time to put her bag down as the camera cuts to show a single shot of the pan boiling. Then as she continues her walk the action gradually starts to increase with the cut to her daughter running in the garden, cut back to Beth and then straight back to the daughter again creating a frenzied and disorientating effect necessary to the pay-off at the end when the lid to the pan is raised. At this moment we cut back once more to the girl screaming by the rabbit cage and then hear Beth’s scream as we are offered a glimpse of the cooked bunny.

Slightly crowded swimming pool

Desperate to escape the heat, locals and tourists crowd the Daying County saltwater swimming pools in China's Sichuan province. Temperatures hit 38c (100.4f) in the region. 
One of the Pictures of the Day at The Telegraph.


Honey, does this dress make my butt look fat?

"Jacqueline Bradley, a Canberra-based artist, created the classic 1950s-style cream and floral 'Boat Dress' that actually floats on water."
Via Neatorama.

28 July 2013

Eastern Tailed-Blue (and a linkdump)

After a fist fight, a soccer referee stabbed a player to death.  So the player's friends and family "rushed into the field, stoned the referee to death and quartered his body.  Local news media say the spectators also decapitated Silva and stuck his head on a stake in the middle of the field."

Use this link to find out what words you can spell with your telephone number.

If you have a few minutes, read the post at Neatorama about North Sentinel Island - "the forbidden island" - whose inhabitants "are members of a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived on the island for 65,000 years."  The Indian government protects these people by not allowing visitors to access the island.

In 1989 a passenger airliner crashed in Niger.  Families of the victims have created a stunning memorial in the desert.

A Reddit thread discusses "What is a book that once you finished, you just sat there in awe of what you just read?"  The most-upvoted entries are not surprising.

For homeowners:  three simple air-conditioner maintenance things-to-do.

An explanation of how swallowing parasites might help patients minimize the effects of auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

How polluters can "game the system" of carbon credits.

Video of cliff-diving monkeys (doing so obviously just for the joy of it).

"Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga decided to poll and interview non-believers to find out what kind of people abandon religious faith and why. Based on this research, the project authors were able to divide non-believers into six basic categories."

Telephone area code 321 in Florida received those numbers because they are the final digits in the countdown of a space launch.

Video of the Northern Lights, filmed in Scandinavia.

A Calvin and Hobbes documentary is coming to movie theaters and video-on-demand.

An instructable shows how to quickly create a mini-cake by stacking three doughnuts and covering them with frosting.

Possibly the worst ceremonial opening pitch of a baseball game.  Ever.

You can read the transcript of the astronauts of Apollo 10 discussing who among them was responsible for the fecal turd found floating through the air of the spacecraft.

The fastest lawn mower in the world is a Honda version that goes from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds.

Moose are dying in Minnesota.  "The population has nosedived in recent years, dropping to about a third of what it was in 2009. In the past year alone, their numbers plummeted 35 percent, leaving only about 2,700 moose. That’s a mortality rate unseen anywhere else in North America—in fact, in other parts of the continent, moose are thriving. But something, or a combination of somethings, is threatening to wipe out moose from the North Woods in less than a decade, if the current decline continues unabated."

I like this new pope.  "When Pope Francis embarked Monday morning for Brazil, where he will take an official week-long tour, he raised eyebrows around the world by carrying his own bag up the stairs to his flight out of Rome... Francis is seeking to demonstrate humility and a closer connection to regular Catholics, as well as signaling to other Vatican officials that they could stand to behave a bit less like royalty and more like priests."

Browse the 1963 Sears Toy Book (and be amazed at the prices).

Ten beautiful medieval maps.

Text and video about a young woman who vacationed in Peru and wound up with maggots in her brain.  "Rochelle said she remembered walking through a swarm of flies when in Peru and a fly had got inside her ear. But once she had shooed it away she thought nothing more of it."

How to make your own ice-cream sandwiches.

Jill Harness has created for Mental Floss a compilation of 62 of the world's most beautiful libraries.

Find out what names people in the Middle Ages gave to their dogs and cats.

The word "shitstorm" has an antonym.  I'll save you the click:  "candystorm."

You can make your own fabric softener at home.

Thumb drives are not eternal.  Lifehacker discusses how to minimize the chances of crucial data loss.

Few people know that "harpaxophilia" means "sexual arousal from being robbed or burglarized. The word comes from the Greek word ἅρπαξ, harpax, “robber” and -philia, “love”.

"Shave 'em dry" is a very rude song from the 1930s.   Audio and text at the link, both of which are totally NSFW.

Collectors Weekly offers a history of paper dolls.

Photo: The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a common butterfly in the Upper Midwest, one of about a dozen types in the Blues subfamily.   I photographed this fresh and strikingly pretty one this afternoon at Badger Prairie Park in Verona, Wisconsin.

26 July 2013

How to walk through shoulder-deep flowers

Visit a prairie.

I did so last weekend, on a field trip to the Schurch-Thomson Prairie, near Barneveld, Wisconsin.  The outing was a joint venture of the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association, the Madison Audubon Society, and the Prairie Enthusiasts, who own and maintain the site. 

The advantage of jointly-sponsored field trips is that participants have a wide range of expertise.  Within that day's group of 15, there were some who could identify for us a meadowlark on a shrub, the identity of every dragonfly that we saw, the species of a sun-bleached skull, and a most unusual plant - a bergamot ("Bee Balm") that was totally white (photo at right) instead of the usual lavender color.

A mature prairie in full midsummer bloom is a delight to see, and absolutely awesome to walk through.  This prairie is maintained in its native state, which means there are no paved trails - one just plunges ahead through the vegetation, some of which overtops an adult's head.

This particular site coveres almost 200 acres, and includes not just remnant prairie, but also some oak savanna and several spring seeps which continually bubble with cold water.   The rockiness of the hillsides of this plot prevented European settlers from putting all of it to the plough, so it served as pasture and was partially overgrown with trees until the Prairie Enthusiasts instituted a restoration and management program.

Most of the butterflies that day were fast-flying fritillaries, including the magnificent Regal Fritillary, which is endangered in all states east of the Mississippi.  This battered Coral Hairstreak was content to rest on my hand.

The rest of the photos are a probably inadequate representation of the floral bounty of the site.

It does give one a sense of what this part of the country was like before European settlers converted so much of it to farms.

The fact that prairie like this can be found in Wisconsin, which is rightfully thought of as a woods-and-lakes state is a reminder that there are specimens of remnant original prairie throughout much of the United States.  To visit one, look for a local chapter of the Prairie Enthusiasts (in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois) or equivalent groups elsewhere in the country (start with Audubon or butterfly groups, or ask at your local library).

A prairie walk should be on your bucket list.

After a power outage, this appeared in the sky

Explained at Reddit, where there are links to two videos about the same phenomenon.

My late father would have enjoyed this; he was a traveling saleman of electrical transformers.

(Image cropped from the original.)

Shrek (the sheep) and sheep wool

Excerpts from an article at Modern Farmer:
[For] six years, this New Zealand [sheep] managed to avoid spring shearings by hiding in a cave. By the time he was found in 2004, his owners couldn’t even tell he was a sheep... When Shrek was eventually sheared.. there was enough wool to produce 20 men’s suits....

Which led us to some basic questions:...We turned to Dave Thomas, head of sheep studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison....

Modern Farmer: Let’s get right down to business. Will wool just keep growing and growing if humans don’t cut it off? 

Dave Thomas: For domestic sheep like the Merino [Shrek's breed], the answer is yes.

MF: So domestic sheep have evolved based on the way we groom them?

DT: That’s right. Primitive sheep like Bighorns in the West still shed most of their wool every year. And domestic sheep, the ones raised primarily for their meat, will do some shedding. But for the majority of sheep, there is continual, year-round wool growth...

MF: Are there potential health issues?  

DT: Full fleece can be bad in very hot weather, sometimes leading to heat stress. There are also mobility issues: if a sheep with long wool lies down on a heavy incline, it can be impossible for them to roll off of their backs. In extreme cases, they can die.

MF: ...What about vision? It looked like Shrek would have a hard time seeing through that mess.

DT: That is what you would call “wool-blind,” when the sheep’s vision is actually impaired
Photo (adjusted for temperature and tint) from Modern Farmer, where there are additional photos of Shrek being sheared and his post-shearing status.

True "race-blindness"

Cropped from a set of photos at imgur.

Unusual pizza

A quick search suggests that the language is Croatian, and the mistranslation may be "smallpox" for "shrimp" (??odd).  Can anyone confirm?

Addendum:  Definitive answer in the Comments.  Hat tip to an anonymous reader.

Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

An egregious medical mistake

If there were an award for the Worst Description of a Medical Procedure in a Novel, I would nominate this dialogue:
"Does it really take twenty minutes from here to Lundeby?"

"Yes, unfortunately, it does.  And twenty minutes back.  They didn't have personnel with them who could perform a tracheotomy.  If they had, he might have been saved."

"What are you talking about now?"

"About going in between two vertebrae and opening up the windpipe from the outside."

"You mean cutting open his throat?"

"Yes, It's actually quite simple.  And it might have saved his life..."
Of course he would have been left quadriplegic after they dissected their way past his spinal column.

My wife found this passage in Chapter 13 of Karin Fossum's otherwise-enjoyable "Don't Look Back."

24 July 2013

Battered butterflies

The Coral Hairstreak above landed on me during a hike at the Schurch-Thomson Prairie last weekend.  It had lost its tail (perhaps to an attack by a jumping spider) and had a portion of both wings excised, probably by a bird.  Several weeks ago this Mourning Cloak nectared on milkweed in our garden:

In addition to the gross defects, he displayed a general raggedness consistent with age (he is probably almost a year old after having overwintered under the bark of a tree somewhere in the woods). 

Not all structural defects are the result of predation.  Butterflies lose scales from their wings after even minimal trauma, such as contact with vegetation, so that some "elderly" ones even become hard to identify.  Males of many species also partipate in vigorous aerial combat to defend territory (and are not afraid to try to intimidate humans).

For today's post I've harvested* photographs taken by members of the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association and submitted to the archives of the outstanding Wisconsin Butterflies website to show the remarkable hardiness of these seemingly fragile creatures.

From webmaster Mike Reese comes this photo of a Common Buckeye -

- and this one of a Juvenal's Duskywing nectaring on hawkweed:

Dan Foster spotted a Red Admiral missing most of one wing -

Ron Arnold found this Monarch similarly afflicted:

This Western White was documented by Ryan Brady:

The final five photos belong to Dan Sonnenberg, starting with this Great Spangled Fritillary -

Then this Eastern Comma -

A Harvester -

A very ragged Question Mark -

And finally, the award winner (if an award existed) for Most Battered Butterfly.  As the sun sets, this Red Admiral declares to the world "I AM BATMAN."

It's worth noting that these torn and tattered butterflies were not plucked off the radiators of vehicles at a truck stop.  All of them were photographed in the wild and were flight capable, demonstrating the impressive resilience of these remarkable creatures.

A Giant Swallowtail "rescued out of Lake Superior and was able to fly away after it dried off" -

 (photo credit Jennifer Wenzel)

See also my 2017 post Birdstrike survivor, for an example of a Monarch will less surface-area damage but with a loss of aerodynamic capability.

*some photos cropped by me of irrelevant vegetation.


Zoopharmacognosy refers to the process by which non-human animals self-medicate by selecting and using plants, soils, and insects to treat and prevent disease...

"[YouTube] clip borrowed from the "Peculiar Potions" episode of BBC's series "Weird Nature" - a jaguar in the Peruvian rain forest eats Yage (Banisteriopsis caapi), a vine containing hallucinogenic chemical harmaline and other beta carbolines, used by natives in a ritualistic ceremony involving Ayahuasca."


Walking Men Worldwide™ is a photographic collage of pedestrian traffic images from cities around the world, collected by Maya Barkai in collaboration with hundreds of professional and amateur photographers. In January 2010, the project made it’s [sic] debut on the construction site of 99 Church Street in Manhattan, NYC...
Via Rob's Webstek, where it is noted that one of the few female walking stick-figures, is "Sophie", the icon from Amersfoort, depicted with a ponytail, miniskirt, and high heels (here).

23 July 2013

Lacewing eggs

Spotted yesterday projecting from the stem of a broccoli plant.  There may be other insects that place their eggs on the ends of stalks (presumably to avoid predation); I think these came from one of the green lacewings that we're happy to have in our gardens, because they suck the body juices out of aphids (but they might also suck the juice out of butterfly eggs - does anyone know?)

A new virus ("Pandoravirus") has been discovered

The name comes not from any implications about its risk to human health, but because the enormous size of the virus (and its genetic code) alters the parameters by which viruses have conventionally been understood.
Over the past decade, scientists have discovered a vast menagerie of viruses that are far bigger, and which carry enormous arsenals of genes. French researchers are now reporting the discovery of the biggest virus yet. The pandoravirus, as they’ve dubbed it, is 1,000 times bigger than the flu virus by volume and has nearly 200 times as many genes — 2,556 all told.

Making the discovery all the more startling is the fact that, of all the genes that pandoraviruses carry, only six percent match any gene known to science

“We believe we’re opening a Pandora’s box – not so much for humanity but for dogma about viruses,” said Dr. Jean-Michel Claverie of the University of Mediterranée, co-author of the paper that was published online Thursday in the journal Science. “We believe we’re touching an alternative tree of life.” 
The virus is so big that it can be seen by light microscopy.  

Further details at The New York Times, via Quigley's Cabinet.

Photo: Chantal Abergel and Jean-Michel Claverie

Netherlands über alles

An alternative world map explained at What If?, via The Presurfer.  Posted because this blog gets a thousand visits a month from the Netherlands.  :.)

The "Landfill Harmonic Orchestra" makes music from garbage

(Just to clarify re the cello solo - the first 5-6 seconds are his, and the rest are from a recording.)

Here's our place in the solar system

From the "Earth seen from space by NASA's Cassini and MESSENGER spacecraft" gallery at The Verge.

How to escape from a car sinking in water

●Open the window as fast as possible — before you hit the water, if you can, or immediately afterward.

●Stay still, with your seat belt on, until the water in the car goes up to your chin. Then take several slow, deep breaths and hold one.

●Do not try to open the door until the water has stopped flooding into the car. Initially, the water outside will put pressure on the door of up to 600 pounds a square inch, meaning you won’t be able to open it from the inside. The pressure inside and outside the car should equalize about the time you start holding your breath.
The next three steps are described at the Washington Post.

p.s. - won't some cars float for a reasonable length of time?  I think my old VW Beetle was supposed to float, and I remember seeing floating cars in videos of the Japanese tsunami. 

Problem in the evidence room

From The New Yorker.

22 July 2013

This eleven-year-old Yemeni girl ran away from home to escape a forced marriage. She eloquently explains why.

Here's the story from National Yemen:
Nada’s story goes back to when she was only two years old. At that time, her uncle, who lives alone with his mother, had expressed to her parents his wish to adopt her in which they agreed. And so Nada lived with her uncle in the capital city, Sanaa, and didn’t hear from her real family until about a month ago when they asked to see her. “They told my uncle that they wanted me back. He couldn’t do anything about it; they’re my parents. So he took me back to them.” Nada explains.
Being back with her parents after 9 years of separation was so difficult on Nada. The estranged girl was getting very uncomfortable with the different and, as she expressed, “bad” environment there in which everyone, including children, was just chewing Qat and smoking shisha all the time. When Nada tried to express her wish to go back to her uncle, she was shocked with the news that she was getting married. “They told me that I am engaged and that my fiance had already paid them money and brought the engagement ring. They said that I couldn’t leave and even threatened to kill me if I went back to my uncle.”..
After her uncle learned of what had happened, he went and took her from Hodeida back to Sanaa. Later on Nada and her uncle discovered that her parents have issued a statement that their daughter had been kidnapped by her uncle. “They said that my uncle kidnapped me but it’s not true, I am the one who ran away.”
I want to continue my education and live my life. I have many dreams, I don’t want to be married now. My mother hates me, she just wants me to get married because she will get money from the man. But I’m not an item for sale, I’m a human being and I would rather die than get married at this age."...
Nada is now waiting in hopes that journalists, human-rights activists and different local organizations will help her make a strong case against her parents who are trying to get her back so they can go on with the marriage process. “I want to thank all the journalists, activists, and organizations that have shown their support to me and hope that they will help me in my case so I can succeed and continue to live my childhood.”
The video has garnered over two million views in the last couple days; it deserves more, if for no other reason than to shatter the preconceived notions that most Westerners have about third-world schoolgirls.

Discussion thread at Reddit.

Photo credit.

I must have a slow mouse

You can take the challenge here.

A graph to share with math-challenged friends

From Chris Blattman, via Within the Crainium.

Ammonium dichromate + mercury thiocyanate + heat = Kraken

Kraken explained.

Via Neatorama.

Not from The Onion

This is a real book, reviewed at Amazon and discussed at Le Café Witteveen.

18 July 2013

"False heads" on hairstreak butterflies

The most interesting butterfly-related item I've read this month is an article in American Butterflies magazine (not available online) detailing a report in the Journal of Natural History ("Two heads are better than one: false head allows Calycopis cecrops (Lycaenidae) to escape predation by a Jumping Spider, Phidippus pulcherrimus (Salticidae)"), which describes how hairstreak butterflies use a "false head" on their rear ends to fool predators:
The present study tests the “false head” hypothesis by exposing a hairstreak butterfly, Calycopis cecrops, as well as many other Lepidoptera species as controls, to the attacks of the jumping spider, Phidippus pulcherrimus. The results unambiguously indicate that the “false head” is a very efficient strategy in deflecting attacks from the vital centres of the hairstreak butterfly whereas other similar-sized Lepidoptera fall easy prey.
The report is discussed in detail at the blog of the Florida Museum of Natural History:
When the hairstreak butterfly faced the jumping spider in an enclosed space, the butterfly successfully escaped 100 percent of the time. The study shows jumping spiders may have influenced evolution of some butterfly patterns and behaviors...When 11 other butterfly and moth species from seven different families were exposed to the jumping spider, they were unable to escape attack in every case.
Previously, scientists presumed that it was attacks by birds that drove the evolution of some butterfly wing patterns; now the role of the jumping spider has been delineated.   The jumping spider has superb near vision.  You would too, if you had eyes like this:

Unlike other butterflies, hairstreaks frequently move the hind wings that carry the false head pattern, a behavior that seems to increase in the presence of the spider.
For years I've noticed this back-and-forth "sawing" movement of the hind wings of resting hairstreak butterflies, without imagining that it served any adaptive purpose.  It obviously attracts the spider's attention, so that when the attack is launched...

...what the butterfly loses consists of nonvital structures.  Note also (in the top photo) how the "false head" is enhanced by the presence of the "tails" (which thus look like antennae).  So the function of the tails is not aerodynamic or decorative, but another adaptation for survival.  Fascinating - you learn something every day.

Top photo credit: Daniel Ruyle (aeschylus18917).  Bottom photo credit Andrei Surakov.

Trailer for "The Fifth Estate"

The trailer for Bill Condon’s WikiLeaks movie, “The Fifth Estate” has arrived, starring “Sherlock” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” star Benedict Cumberbatch as a singularly-focused Julian Assange.

Assange, however, has consistently criticized the project, calling it “a massive propaganda attack” on the organization and even refused to meet with Cumberbatch.
From within London’s Ecuadorian embassy, where Assange remains in hiding, he connected with Oxford University students via Internet and slammed the film, which allegedly contains scenes regarding a nuclear weapons program in Iran. ”How does this have anything to do with us?… How is it that a lie gets into a script about WikiLeaks?” he asked. He called the scenes “an attack against us [WikiLeaks]” as well as “an attack against Iran.” “It fans the flames to start a war with Iran,” he said.

Selections from Uncle Shelby's ABZ book

Via Vintage Kids' Books My Kids Love (where there are several more).
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