30 August 2014

A crosseyed planthopper

I need to take about a week off to tend to some urgent family matters.  When I come back I'll offer you a series of posts about Siberia.

Image (credit June Aubrey Young) via the QI elves' (creators of my favorite podcasts) Twitter feed.

Addendum:  An interesting comment from reader Steve -
Pseudopupils are pretty neat. What you're actually seeing is ommatidia that are oriented directly toward the viewer (camera lens). Instead of seeing the pigmented walls of the ommatidium you are seeing right into the photoreceptors. The dark spots will even appear to follow you as you move around the insect but the insect is not actually moving anything. Some spiders can move their retina to look around though, which is pretty awesome. 

Richard Feynman's lectures on physics are now online

As reported by Open Culture:
Last fall, we let you know that Caltech and The Feynman Lectures Website joined forces to create an online edition of The Feynman Lectures on Physics. They started with Volume 1. And now they’ve followed up with Volume 2 and Volume 3, making the collection complete...

The new online edition makes The Feynman Lectures on Physics available in HTML5. The text “has been designed for ease of reading on devices of any size or shape,” and you can zoom into text, figures and equations without degradation. 
More at the link.  The image is my screencap of part of one of the pages.

Misinformation in televised medical dramas

"It turns out that popular medical dramas don't always portray medical treatment accurately. A new study found that seizure care in particular was depicted appropriately less than half the time on major fictional medical shows...
The study looked at the depiction of seizure care for all episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," House, M.D.," and "Private Practice," and the last five seasons of "ER." The research will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting in Toronto, Ontario, in April.

In nearly 46 percent of seizure cases, characters on these shows delivered inappropriate treatments such as holding the person down, trying to stop involuntary movements or putting something in the person's mouth, the study said. The shows did show proper treatment about 29 percent of the time, and in the remaining 25 percent of the time, the accuracy of the portrayal couldn't be determined...

There have been other studies showing that television medical shows do a poor job of portraying procedures appropriately and accurately. Of concern is one about cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, Sanders said. A 1996 New England Journal of Medicine study of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Rescue 911" found that in the episodes viewed, 75 percent of patients survived cardiac arrest immediately, and 67 percent appeared to be well enough to leave the hospital. In real life, long-term survival rates vary from 2 to 30 percent for cardiac arrest outside a hospital and 6.5 to 15 percent for arrests inside a hospital, the study said.

False depictions of CPR are probably more alarming than misrepresented seizure care, Sanders said. Normally, seizure care is left to doctors, who don't get their information on treatments from television. But CPR is a procedure that lay people do learn how to do, and they might get false impressions from watching dramas, she said."

"Swatting" explained

Militarized local SWAT teams can be tricked by hackers into raiding homes of innocent people.  The Vice video above illustrates the problem, which is also discussed at Salon:
“The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them,” the Littleton Police Department said in a statement. “He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well.”

What the cameras captured is a perilous new prank known as “swatting,” or making a false report to get the SWAT team to invade a rival gamer’s space. As evidenced by the Vice News report below, this can involve disguising the caller identity and making some potentially life-threatening claims.

Wooden toilet seat found at Vindolanda

"What is believed to be the only wooden toilet seat to be found in the Roman Empire has been unearthed at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall...

The seat was discovered by Dr Birley in the deep pre-Hadrianic trenches at Vindolanda. There are many examples of stone and marble toilet seat benches from across the Roman Empire but this is believed to be the only surviving wooden seat, almost perfectly preserved in the anaerobic, oxygen free, conditions which exist at Vindolanda.

Dr Birley said that in the chilly conditions of what was the northernmost limits of the Empire, a wooden seat would have been preferable to stone...

The seat has been well used and was decommissioned from its original location and discarded amongst the rubbish left behind in the fort before the construction of Hadrian’s Wall started in the early Second Century. "

Christianity-based health care

"...one way Americans can avoid buying private insurance or paying into the Affordable Care Act.

The deal, made possible by a little-known provision in the health-care law, has one particularly important requirement: The Duff household of nine must abstain from general debauchery.

Samaritan Ministries, a health-care sharing group, will charge its national network to cover the family’s medical bills, but only if they agree to forsake binge-drinking, extramarital sex, illegal drugs and tobacco (with the exception of celebratory, post-birth cigars). The organization describes itself as a “Biblical approach” to health-care, guided by Galatians 6:2: Bear one another’s burdens...

Samaritan’s rules, however, extend beyond the religious realm to the practical one of saving money. Sinful behavior threatens more than a soul’s entrance to Heaven, Duff and his cohorts believe: It damages the earthly body — and amplifies the price of health-care.
Christians are just healthier people,” he says. “Think of all the physical problems we can attribute to a sinful lifestyle.”

Obamacare, the Samaritan contract states, is undesirable because it covers costs that “result from immoral practices,” such as STD treatments or out-of-wedlock births. The law creates a moral dilemma for Duff, who now works as an assistant pastor in downtown Omaha.

Simply put,” he says, “I don’t want to pay for that or encourage it in any way.
Neither do the estimated 100,000 other Samaritan users.
More at the Washington Post.

American League teams win more interleague games

American League teams have won the majority of interleague games for 10 consecutive years; this year will likely be the 11th.  Graphic from the Wall Street Journal, where there is speculation about the reasons for this trend.

Movement of Death Valley's "racetrack" rocks finally explained

Rocks of various heft – some weighing 600 pounds or more – leave trails that wiggle like snakes or form complete loops or even rectangles. The trails are cut sharply into the earth but no other tracks are visible.

Theories over the decades have included sporadic hurricane-force winds when the surface is covered with rain water, or rocks carried across the mud by small rafts of ice, or UFOs.

But until the Norrises had an incredible stroke of luck that day last December, no one had scientifically verified the phenomenon. The findings were formally presented today in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE.
This video, posted at GrindTV has details and video of the rocks moving.

Additional details at that link (hat tip to reader Stan Banos for sending it in).
As part of the Slithering Stones Research Initiative, researchers custom built motion-activated GPS units and fitted them into 15 rocks and placed them on the playa in the winter of 2011, with permission from the National Park Service. They expected it would take five to 10 years before something happened.

Ralph Lorenz, one of the paper’s authors from Applied Physics Laboratory at John Hopkins University, called it “the most boring experiment ever.”

27 August 2014

The surprising effect of road salt on butterflies

Salting roads in winter can tweak the physiques of butterflies the next summer.

Milkweeds and oaks, plants that caterpillars graze on, collected from alongside a country road carried higher sodium concentrations than the same species growing at least 100 meters from the splash and drift of deicing salt, says Emilie Snell-Rood of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars raised on the sodium-boosted plants turned into males with extra thoracic muscles and females with bigger eyes and probably bigger brains than butterflies reared on the more distant foliage, Snell-Rood and her colleagues found.

A different butterfly, the cabbage white, echoed these his-and-hers effects when reared on a sodium-boosted lab diet, researchers report June 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So is road salt good for butterflies? “I do not want that to be the take-home message,” Snell-Rood says. Instead, she says, the study demonstrates for the first time that road salt can alter how animals develop physically.
Text from Science News, with a tip of the hat to reader Bradley Ruben for bringing it to my attention.  Photo from our yard.

Related: The double-edged sword of salting roads in winter, and Cheese brine for icy roads.

"FreeD video"

The technology is explained in this video featuring tennis coverage.

Online versions are not saving newspapers

The blue line in the chart displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation using the CPI, and appear in the chart as
millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950...
Further details and analysis at Carpe Diem, via The Dish.

Bathing suit, 1916 - updated

In the photography category of this blog,  I've occasionally posted photos of beach scenes from the turn of the last century, and I suspect a modern person's responses are "what uncomfortable clothing to wear" and "what unattractive clothing to wear."

With regard to the latter (?mis)perception, I offer the above photo, from the camera of Alfred Stieglitz (‘Ellen Koeniger’, 1916, gelatin silver photograph, 11.1 x 9.1, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), as a reminder that when wet, those staid bathing costumes must have shocked some Edwardian-era sensibilities.

Found at Consciousness is a Congenital Hallucination.

Reposted from 2010 to add a link to another of Stieglitz' photos.  The two images have different dates and names, but it appears to be the same suit.

The world's most famous iceberg

Because Titanic.
The iceberg lay at latitude 41-46N, longitude 50-14W, off the coast of Newfoundland. Newspaper reports of the time said that the visible part of the iceberg – that above the waterline – was anywhere between 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long.

The chief steward on board the Prinze Adelbert liner took the photo of the iceberg on the morning of the Titanic sinking.

Reports say he spotted a line of red paint along the bottom of the iceberg which experts believe show where it had made contact with Titanic.

Journal.ie reports that the steward was not aware at the time that it had been the iceberg that sunk the Titanic but the location, the marks on the iceberg and Titanic survivors’ descriptions of the iceberg triangulated to confirm that it was.
A tip of the blogging hat to the elves at QI, who made mention of this iceberg on their always-excellent podcast.

Calcified ectopic fetus

As reported by The Telegraph:
Doctors in India have removed the skeleton of a foetus that had been inside a woman for 36 years in what is believed to be the world's longest ectopic pregnancy...

A team of doctors in Nagpur successfully performed surgery to remove the mass that was lodged between the woman's uterus, intestines and bladder.

Skeletal remains that were removed are seen in video footage laid out on a hospital bed, and include numerous parts of a rib cage, leg and arm bones and sections of a skull, spine and pelvis.

25 August 2014

And the award for "Best Antennae" goes to...

"The beetle family Phengodidae, known also as glowworm beetles."

From Project Noah, via A London Salmagundi.

"Sand-activated' puppets

You pour the sand in at the top.  And it comes out... well, at the bottom.

Via A London Salmagundi.

Just follow the directions on the signs

For a brief time Thursday and Friday the parking regulation signs outside Linwood E. Howe Elementary School topped 15 feet.

The signs were meant to clarify a new drop-off and pick-up procedure for when classes resume at the school, but as CBS2’s Juan Fernandez reported, neighbors just found them confusing.

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said the plan was for the signs to only be displayed temporarily. “They just didn’t look temporary,” she said. “So they were going to be taken down. And it looked like … whoa. It was pretty impressive.”
Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

People wilil still climb over this sign

Discussed at a Reddit thread.  (Image cropped from original)

"A poetic remake of the strategic achievement of Hannibal"

Gimme a break.  Dragging a replica elephant on wheels along the Cavalla Pass in Italy is hardly a remake of Hannibal's achievement.

Via the Washington Post, with an additional photo here.  Credit: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images.

World record price for a Navajo blanket

 Only about 100 of these original "first-phase" chief's blankets are thought to exist.

Details at The Telegraph.  At the risk of throwing a wet blanket on a feel-good story, one has to wonder whether his ancestor in the 1860s spent four years' salary to purchase the blanket, as is postulated in the video.

Birds catching fire in mid-air

IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. — Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group...
More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high
Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a “mega-trap” for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays...

BrightSource also is offering $1.8 million in compensation for anticipated bird deaths at Palen, Desmond said.
It's not clear to whom the company would pay the compensation.  Presumably to the families of the dead birds.

Further details at the Calgary Herald, via the QI elves.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Wales Larrison for providing a link to a detailed study of avian mortality at the facility.  I'm dismayed to note that the researchers also noted significant insect mortality, including many Monarch butterflies.

"Music" heard on the back side of the moon

During a podcast of No Such Thing as a Fish, the elves mentioned in passing a "symphony" heard by astronauts on the far side of the moon.  Today I found the following at Above Top Secret:
Most of us Conspiracy Researchers will recall the case of Apollo 10 Astronauts : Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young discussing the “outer-spacey” music they head while on the far side of the moon. This music happened during the LOS (loss of signal) period that occurred while the communications between themselves and mission control were temporarily unavailable due to their position behind the moon. Gene Cernan is the first to hear the music (in the LM) and the transcripts shows that he radios John Young in the CSM to confirm he is hearing the same thing. John young then replies “Yea, I got it too…….and see who was outside?” Not only does JY confirm he hears it, but look at his following statement, “and see who is outside” ! Now who could be “outside” the space vessels?! More importantly John Young is inferring that there may be a connection between the “music” and “who is outside” of their crafts. After a few minutes of dialogue regarding the mission Gene Cernan brings up the topic again, “boy, that sure is strange music” in which John Young replies “ Were going to have to find out about that. Nobody will Believe us.”

During their next orbit of the dark side the “music” RETURNS. Addressing Tom Stafford this time Gene Cernan asks “You hear music Tom? That crazy whistling?” In which Tom Stafford replies “I can hear it.” Gene replies “that’s really weird” and Tom replies “it is.” Further on Gene AGAIN brings up the subject by stating “Listen to eerie music”. They even continue random dialogue regarding the music and how eerie and weird it was, and that nobody is going to believe them. 
More at the link, where you can access Apollo 10 transcripts and experiences by other astronauts.  Here is one possible explanation:
There hasn't ever really been an "official" explanation of these sounds (described as whistling and buzz-saw sounds). But most scientists offer that it could be attributed to either radio interference in the lander or perhaps an artifact of the Sun's solar wind.
Since the most prominent example of this sound was when the Apollo 15 astronauts were on the far side of the Moon, it could be suggested that the Moon's gravity was gravitationally focusing the Sun's wind (a mix of high energy charged particles) onto the capsule. That interaction would created electromagnetic distortions, which could produce sounds inside the capsule.

"Some quality family bonding time right here..."

An instagram tweeted by a member of my cousin's family, who was in the process of packing to head off to college and taking some last pix of family she would leave behind.

It's sort of meta for me to now post it in the blog for them to see.  And now I'll email it to my wife.  My 95-year-old mother is forever amazed by "this modern world."

What is unusual about this penny?

It's a Lincoln head cent, issued in 1909 on the centennial of Lincoln's birth, and the first in a long series of gazillions of similar pennies differing only in date and mint marks.

But there is something about this penny that no other penny on earth shares.  Answer below the fold...

22 August 2014

This sculpture of Jesus has human teeth

The video is in Spanish, but details in English are available at The History Blog -
Restorers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) working on a polychrome statue of the Christ of Patience have found eight human teeth in the figure’s mouth. These types of statues often have teeth, but they’re carved out of wood or bone either as a plate or as individual teeth. This is the first time actual human teeth have been found...

According to Fanny Unikel, head restorer of INAH’s Restoration Workshop of Polychrome Sculpture of the National School of Conservation, Restoration and Museology (ENCRyM), the teeth were probably donations made by devout parishioners, a practice seen frequently with far less painful materials like hair for wigs or clothing...

The dental implant Christ is one of a group of 17th and 18th century statues of the saints belonging to the church of San Bartolo Cuautlalpan, a farming community in the central Mexico municipality of Zumpango...

Blind hunters

Not hunters in blinds, or people hunting for blinds.  The BBC has a report on blind hunters:
In the US, being blind is no bar to owning and carrying firearms. The blind people who do it say they are simply exercising their constitutional right, and present no danger to the public....

The day of the test came, and McWilliams duly went along to the police firing range with a friend who was also trying for a permit. The targets were half-size cut-outs of assailants, positioned seven yards (6.4m) away. McWilliams fired a series of shots with a .357 magnum, all of which landed in the heart region of his target. Clearly, he knew what he was doing...

Concealed carry permits - the licences required to carry a gun in public - are issued at state level, and the criteria and rules vary across the US. While there is nothing in North Dakota's statutes to prevent a blind person - or a person with any physical disability - carrying a gun, in Florida, for example, a "physical inability to handle a firearm safely" is listed as a reason for ineligibility. Yet even there, a blind person with a North Dakota licence would still be able to carry his or her gun, since Florida recognises permits from that state. ..

It's even more straightforward for blind people to own guns if they are content to leave them at home. In most states, you don't need to perform a shooting test or get a licence to buy a gun. Consequently, no-one knows how many blind Americans own guns for home defence, target practice or hunting. Carey McWilliams started hunting in 2008. When ducks fly across the sky, he says, they make a sound like bicycle tyres on a pavement, and he traces them with the barrels of his rifle. For other types of hunting, such as stalking elk, he goes out with a companion, who whispers directions - up a bit, left a bit, right a bit - but who is not permitted to touch his weapon. ..

Since then, McWilliams has killed a black bear and is now set on African game. He owns "eight or nine" guns, including an AR-15 machine gun...

At the same time, McWilliams says again and again that he would only use his weapon on someone at point blank range - "I consider my gun a blade with a bang." That is the only way, he says, that he can be sure he is under real attack and - his acoustic shooting skills notwithstanding - pick out his assailant. To minimise danger to passers-by, he says his gun is loaded with frangible ammunition, which would be of no danger after exiting an assailant's body. "Surgeons absolutely hate those type of shots that I use because they do a lot of a damage internally," he says. "It would make a bullet wound about the size of a dime and an exit wound about the size of a baseball, and wouldn't go very far beyond that."
(comments are closed for this post)

"Siri, where should I bury my roommate?"

A young man in Florida is accused of murdering his roommate (details at The Telegraph).  Evidence at his trial will include information retrieved from his PDA (screencap above).
The Siri device, which had been accessed via Facebook, allegedly responded with the question: "What kind of place are you looking for? Swamps. Reservoirs. Metal foundries. Dumps."..

Detectives who accessed Bravo's phone found that he had used the flashlight facility for 48 minutes on the day of Aguilar's disappearance. 

Buried treasure found in France

From a story in The Telegraph:
The men had been working at the property, situated in a village near Les Andelys and Vernon, for several days when they came across the hidden trove, estimated to be worth more than €900,000 (£700,200), hidden in glass jars...

Upon closer inspection, the workers unearthed several large glass jars containing 16 gold bars weighing 2.2lbs each, and 600 gold coins from 1924 and 1927. The stash had probably hidden for safekeeping during the Second World War, according to Paris Normandie.  
They didn't tell the homeowner, opting instead to divide up the treasure.  Then...
...tax officials homed in them after one of the men began depositing high-value cheques, including one for €270,000
Showing once again how utterly, abysmally stupid some thieves are.   But I'll bet there are quite a few family fortunes that were created not by a hardworking ancestor, but by a lucky and discreet one.  And I'm sure there are more stashes like this one scattered throughout the continent.


The StarTribune notes that this "sport" is gaining in popularity on Minnesota lakes.
A jet pack mounts onto his feet in heavy bindings that look like massive snowboard boots. Water pressure from a hose hooked into a water scooter lifts him into the air, allowing him to hover over the water, then dive or do back flips overhead...

It doesn’t come cheap, though. With the jet ski and all the equipment, he said it can quickly add up to $20,000. In two years of owning flyboards, he’s run through 10 water scooter engines due to the extra wear it takes with the flyboards.

He rents them out for $299 an hour. But more and more people are curious about the unusual sport, with Jansen doing 3,000 rentals last year.
I'm not thrilled by this development because I've never been a fan of the noise created by jet skis.  And I notice that every video I've found replaces ambient sound with hard rock to mask that noise.

Worldwide obesity

An amazing pair of numbers from the most recent Harper's Index:
Year in which the World Health Organization began keeping records on global obesity:  1980

Number of years since then in which at least one country has reduced its obesity rate:  0
There are a few details and some commentary at the New York Times; presumably there is more in-depth analysis elsewhere.

For homeowners: an open thread on "mudjacking"

If you own a house long enough, most of the components will need to be repaired or replaced (a fact often overlooked by young couples eager to purchase as much home as they can afford). Take my driveway.  Please.

Our house is only about 20-25 years old, situated near the crest of a hill overlooking woods.  It's clear that some regrading of the lot was necessary to position it where it is.  The driveway has a series of concrete slabs separated by tiny expansion grooves.  Over the past decade or so, some of the slabs have begun to shift.  These depressions first make themselves manifest in the winter when you are shoveling snow vigorously and the shovel comes to a sudden stop, sending a shudder through your body.

What's happening underneath may represent a "settling" of fill originally used to level the ground or perhaps some erosion as rainwater and winter meltwater work their way between the slabs, perhaps exacerbated by the burrowing of critters like chipmunks or the action of the roots of some nearby very large trees.

The traditional repair method is to hire a construction firm to jackhammer out the concrete, adjust the base as necessary and then pour new slabs.  The alternative is "mudjacking" (sandjacking, slabjacking).  This involves drilling a small hole in the concrete slabs and injecting under hydraulic pressure a material (originally mud or sand, but more recently a polyurethane foam) which fills the space and then lifts the slab until it is flush with its neighbors. (details at the link)

"Jacking" the slabs back up is generally faster, less labor intensive, less disruptive, and less expensive (probably by a factor of 3-5X - I'm still studying that) than removal and replacement of the driveway.  But when slabs are cracked (as some of ours are), there is a risk that the segments will separate, and even a smooth lift of an intact slab may not align perfectly with all the neighboring ones.

I'm writing this post to encourage readers who have dealt with similar driveway/sidewalk problems to respond with comments (for me and for other readers who have - or will someday have- the same problem to deal with), because this isn't the kind of information one learns in school.  Success stories and horror stories are equally welcome.

21 August 2014

A young boy with giant hands

Addendum:  the embedded video is no longer available.  A hat tip to reader Piper for finding a similar one at this UPI link.

The video tells the story in four minutes; here's the TL;DR for those in a hurry -
Eight-year-old Kaleem's hands weigh eight kilograms each and measure 13 inches from the base of his palm to the end of his middle finger.

The cricket fan, who lives in India, is unable to do many basic tasks – including tying his shoes laces – and has been bullied and shunned most of his life.

He said: "I do not go to school because the teacher says other kids are scared of my hands.
"Many of them used to bully me for my deformity. They would say 'let's beat up the kid with the large hands'."
The physician in the video is hopelessly out of his depth.  This is in no way a case of acromegaly (which is also not a disease of the thyroid).  Note the boy also has engorgement of the tissues of his upper chest.  I would favor a disorder of his lymphatic system - genetic rather than parasitic because of the early onset.

I'm also saddened by the responses of his childhood playmates, whose mockery and aggression remind me of the treatment accorded the "banjo goiter" man whom I previously blogged.

Tuberculosis as the cause of the American holocaust?

Recent research suggests that tuberculosis spread by seals may have been responsible for the deaths of millions of Native Americans in pre-contact America.
Disease-riddled Europeans, carrying tuberculosis across the Atlantic, have long been blamed for wiping out huge populations of Native Americans.

But new research has found that the deadly bugs which killed millions were probably spread by seals and sea lions, long before Christopher Columbus first arrived in the New World in 1492.
A study which looked at tuberculosis strains in bones discovered in Peru found they were closely linked to those found in sea mammals.
The research shows that tuberculosis is likely to have spread from humans in Africa to seals and sea lions, who then carried the disease to South America and transmitted it to Native populations long before Europeans landed on the continent...

"Our results show unequivocal evidence of human infection caused by sea lions and seals in pre-Columbian South America.

“Within the past 2,500 years, the marine animals likely contracted the disease from an African host species and carried it across the ocean to coastal people in South America.”
I can't comment on the history of South America; in North America it's true that there was evidence of depopulation (in the desert Southwest and at Cahokia) before the arrival of Europeans), but there is also well-documented eyewitness evidence of the ravages of diseases brought by the first Europeans.

I don't doubt that seals may have spread mycobacterial disease to humans (perhaps nontuberculous mycobacteria, labeled "tuberculosis" in the article), but I can't envision any mycobacteria (even M.Tb) causing the biblical-level depopulations experienced in North America.

"The times, they are a-changing"

According to The Moscow Times, Russia is demanding that Bulgaria take steps to prevent vandalism of soviet statuary.

This is what the Monument to the Soviet Army used to look like:

On June 17, 2011 the monument was painted overnight by unknown artists, who "dressed" the Soviet Army soldiers as American comics heroes and characters: Superman, Joker, Robin, Captain America, Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, Wolverine, The Mask, and Wonder Woman, with a caption underneath which translates as "Abreast with the Times" (in Bulgarian "V krak s vremeto", literally "In pace with time"). The monument was cleaned in the late hours of June 20, 2011. The event was widely covered by the international media and provoked serious pro and anti-Russian discussion in the Bulgarian society. The story was filmed in the short documentary In Step With The Time directed by Anton Partalev and includes anonymous interviews with the artists. The film won the second prize in 2013 IN OUT FESTIVAL in Poland.
Top photo: Ignat Ignev / Wikicommons

Millions more personal records stolen

Community Health Systems, which operates 206 hospitals across the United States, announced on Monday that hackers recently broke into its computers and stole data on 4.5 million patients.

Hackers have gained access to their names, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.

Anyone who received treatment from a network-owned hospital in the last five years -- or was merely referred there by an outside doctor -- is affected.

The large data breach puts these people at heightened risk of identity fraud. That allows criminals open bank accounts and credit cards on their behalf, take out loans and ruin personal credit history.
It never ends...

It's true that there's no prize when you die...

... but I do keep track of all the books I've read.   I rate them on a scale of 0-4+, so that when I get old(er) and (more) demented, I'll know which ones to re-read.

For the past 25 years, here are the 92 books I've rated 4+ (to be honest, it also includes a fair number of 3.5s), out of a total of 700+.

1990 ( of 26)
The Bourne Identity

The Parsifal Mosaic
1991 (52)
Colin Watson
Hopjoy was Here

The Man Who Folded Himself

One Hundred Years of Solitude
1992 (63)
Salem Possessed

Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th century Massachusetts.

The Damnation of Theron Ware

The Secret Pilgrim

Brother to Dragons

Childhood's End
1993 (39)
1994 (44)
1995 (38)
And So To Murder


The Jesus Conspiracy

Columbus Was Last

Norse Discoveries & Explorations in America 982-1362
1996 (28)
The Stars My Destination

A Maggot

The Big Sky
1997 (8)
1998 (13)
Into Thin Air

The Vikings and America
1999 (16)
The country of the Pointed Firs

Absalom Absalom (turgid and gloomy)

Hardy and Shaffer
The Wicker Man
2000 (4)
Teale, Edwin Way
A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm
2001 (8)
Ryan & Pittman
Noah's Flood


The Alban Quest
2002 (19)
2003 (36)
Angels and Demons

The Kite Runner

All the Kings Men
2004 (49)
1421 The Year China Discovered America

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through

Da Vinci Code

The True Believer
2005 (45)
The Mapmaker’s Wife

The Reason Why [Crimea, Light Brigade]

Naked to Mine Enemies, Volumes 1 and 2

Gag Rule.  On the suppression of dissent

Bring Out Your Dead
2006 (35)
Marley and Me

Confident Hope of a Miracle

A Pretext for War

Science and Civilisation in China, Vol IV: 3

The Looming Tower; Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
2007 (29)
Letter to a Christian Nation

The Thirteenth Tale

Overthrow. America’s Century of Regime Change (skimmed)

Planet Earth

The Island at the Center of the World [Manhattan]

The Road

When the Cheering Stopped

No Country for Old Men
2008 (30)
God is Not Great

The Deep

Ballesta & Deschamp
Planet Ocean

Let Me Stand Alone


Blood Meridian

Legacy of Ashes

Krakatoa; the Day the World Exploded

Last Shot
2009 (31)
How Jesus Became Christian

Misquoting Jesus


Society without God

The Smaller Majority (nature photos)
2010 (49)
An Instance of the Fingerpost

Paradise Found: Nature in America at the time of discovery

Van Allsburg
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Bourne Identity

The Fourth Part of the World

Heavenly Intrigue [Kepler and Brahe]

The Lost City of Z

The Age of Wonder

Over the Edge of the World [Magellan]
2011 (21)
Hard Road West


Winchester, Simon
The Alice Behind Wonderland

The Brendan Voyage

The Bippolo Seed and Other Stories

The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way

The Tree Army; a pictorial history of the CCC, 1933-1942
2012 (18)

Destiny of the Republic [bio James Garfield]

1434; The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy…

Blue Highways

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards
2013 (21)
Lost in the Taiga

Cloud Atlas

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet
2014 (21)
As I Lay Dying

Sometimes I post reviews in the recommended books category of this blog.

Please feel free to chime in with a comment about your favorite books.
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