29 November 2014


An article at the BBC explores why so many Americans live in mobile homes.  "Not everyone who lives in a trailer park is poor."  My father lived in one in Texas for many years .

The WildCat is an impressive robot developed by the U.S. Defense Department. Video at the link.

The "choking game" is "an activity popular among 9- to 16-year-old kids in which they strangle themselves or each other — sometimes at parties or sleepovers — to get a high. The most common reported age of death is 13, Alex’s age. Many kids like Alex — smart kids who do well in school and have loving families — regard the Choking Game as a legal and safe alternative to drugs; one popular nickname for this is the Good Kids’ High."

The Atlantic explains how close New York City is to a food crisis, if supplies from outside the city are disrupted by natural or manmade events: "New Yorkers rely chiefly on food from across the country, or the other side of the world. And to complicate matters, in recent decades the big companies that run these systems... keep much smaller inventories than in years past, sized to meet immediate demand under stable conditions—a strategy known as "just-in-time."

 Some medical facilities in the U.S. are now permitting patients to be visited by their pets. "In the end, officials decided that the benefits — comfort and reduced stress for patients — were more substantial than the risks. 

The Ancient History Encyclopedia has TMI for right now, but it is a good link to bookmark for reference and future browsing.  Its content is exactly what the name suggests.

The World Memory Championships are a remarkable test of human abilities.  Components of the competition include:
1. Names and faces: recall as many as possible in 15 minutes
2. Binary numbers: remember as many binary figures, which are made up of 0 and 1, in half an hour
3. One hour numbers: to memorise as many random digits in complete rows of 40 in one hour
4. Abstract images: recall the sequence of abstract images in as many rows as possible in 15 minutes
5. Speed numbers: remember random digits, in rows of 40, as quickly as possible in five minutes
6. Historic/future dates: recall as many years as possible and link them correctly to given fictional events in five minutes
7. One hour cards: remember as many separate decks of 52 playing cards as possible in one hour
8. Random words: recount as many random words, such as dog, vase, spoon, in 15 minutes
9. Spoken numbers: memorise as many single digits spoken aloud in one second intervals as possible
10. Speed cards: recall as single pack of 52 playing cards in the shortest possible time.
Additional details are available in an article in The Telegraph.

The Sahara desert is experiencing a "catastrophic collapse of its wildlife." "Of 14 species historically found in the Sahara, four are now extinct, and the rest are heading that way.... the region has lost the Bubal hartebeest (which is entirely extinct), the scimitar horned ornyx (extinct in the wild), the African wild dog and the African lion, while the dama gazelle, addax, leopard and the Saharan cheetah have been eliminated from 90 percent or more of their range."

The earth has vast resources of fresh water - underneath the oceans. "The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900."

Some people think the U.S. and Canada should merge into one country.  "Such a merger makes perfect sense. No two countries on Earth are as socially and economically integrated as the U.S. and Canada... Truth be told, the merger of the U.S. and Canada is already well under way. As many as one in 10 Canadians (more than 3 million people) live full- or part-time in the U.S., and an estimated 1 million Americans live in Canada."

An op-ed piece at Salon argues that referring to every soldier as a "hero" cheapens the term.

FlirOne infrared cameras attach to a cellphone and can be utilized in a variety of ways to do your own home inspection looking for heat and water leaks.

The "jetway Jesus phenomenon" is a term flight attendants use to refer to passengers who get rides through airports in wheelchairs, then miraculously get up and walk.

Was Vincent Van Gogh murdered?  "And, anyway, what kind of a person, no matter how unbalanced, tries to kill himself with a shot to the midsection? And then, rather than finish himself off with a second shot, staggers a mile back to his room in agonizing pain from a bullet in his belly?"

Photos of vinyl hoarders and their hoards.

The first house in the United States to have electric lights was in Appleton, Wisconsin.  The homeowner operated a mill and set up a hydroelectric plant for the house.

A previously-unknown Shakespearean First Folio has been discovered in a French Jesuit library.

During WWI, tanks were designated "male" or "female."  The latter had machine guns.

"The former leader of a Christian ministry that promised to cure people "trapped in homosexuality" has revealed that he has married his gay partner."

"The two drugs have been declared equivalently miraculous. Tested side by side in six major trials, both prevent blindness in a common old-age affliction. Biologically, they are cousins. They’re even made by the same company. But one holds a clear price advantage. Avastin costs about $50 per injection.Lucentis costs about $2,000 per injection.  Doctors choose the more expensive drug more than half a million times every year, a choice that costs the Medicare program, the largest single customer, an extra $1 billion or more annually... Doctors and drugmakers profit when more-costly treatments are adopted... “Lucentis is Avastin — it’s the same damn molecule with a few cosmetic changes..."

The National Library of Norway is in the process of digitizing its entire holdings. "If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download. "

ELI5 explanation of why oil (and gasoline) prices have been plummeting


The title of this linkdump is one of the penultimate lines from The Court of Tartary, a fantasy by T.P. Caravan first published in 1963. In the story, a professor of English literature "awakens" to find his mind is entrapped in the body of a cow, and the herd seems to be destined to the slaughterhouse.
"Edward Harrison Dunbar, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., L.L.D., member of the Modern Language Association and authority on eighteenth century literature, was not prepared for the situation in which he found himself: it had never been mentioned by any of the writers of the Age of Reason....

And even as he ran he wondered if he couldn't prove that Edward Young was the true author of the third book of Gulliver's Travels, because he knew that if he stopped thinking scholarly thoughts about the eighteenth century he would have to admit that he had turned into an animal. So as he ran he considered the evidence turned up by the publication of the Tickell papers and the discovery of Swift's old laundry lists and Night Thoughts and the graveyard poets and Gray's Elegy and the lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, and he had to admit that he was an animal....

There was no point in approaching his difficulty through the scientific method: he knew no science. There was no help for him in metaphysics: he had cleared his mind of Kant. Nor could the classics aid him: he had read Ovid, of course, and the Golden Ass, but he didn't see how they bore on his problem. And — he hated to admit it — nobody in the eighteenth century seemed to have wondered what would happen to a scholar who woke up and found himself a cow. All right. That left only his own experience to fall back on. But, being a professor, he had never had any experiences..."
He decides to use his hoof to draw a triangle in the dust.  Then... if I've piqued your curiosity, you can read the full story in ten minutes fulltext online at Scribd.


The photographs (found here, here, and here) embedded above in this weekend linkdump are of Prince's Island Park, located in the Bow River as it passes through Calgary.  The backside of the island abuts the community of Eau Claire, but its nicest feature is that the front of the island faces the delightful community of Sunnyside, a suburb of Calgary characterized by an uncommonly large number of intellectually sophisticated residents.


  1. A merger of the US and Canada would shift US politics to the left, so I would oppose such a merger on that basis. Of course, I can imagine other people might support a merger for that reason.

    1. Just think about how incredibly right-shifted you'd be making Canada, though. The Affordable Care Act looks deeply conservative when compared to the Canadian Health Act.

  2. The designation of "male" and "female" tanks seems biologically backwards. (I'm thinking of one big bullet/reproductive unit vs. many, many smaller ones.)

  3. LOVE your pics and commentary on Prince's Island and Sunnyside. Calgary is my hometown :)

    1. My decision to feature Sunnyside in the post was triggered by one of the comments I received on my "shutting down the blog" post two weeks earlier.

    2. LOL Just went and searched the replies to find it, that's awesome! :)

  4. "An op-ed piece at Salon argues that referring to every soldier as a 'hero' cheapens the term."

    I've maintained this for years--call these folks "honored patriots" or the like--but when I voice this opinion about the term "hero," I get dirty looks.


    "Many kids like Alex — smart kids who do well in school and have loving families — regard the Choking Game as a legal and safe alternative to drugs; one popular nickname for this is the Good Kids’ High."

    Okay, that cheapens the term, "smart."



  5. that last photo - it looks like something edward hopper might paint!


  6. Thanks for all your posts on butterflies -- the Monarch in particular. Here's one in return:

    From CBC: A Quebec company is taking a unique approach to cleaning up oil spills by producing the world's only industrial crop of milkweed, which will be used as new kind of absorbent.



    1. Thank you, gem. That is certainly blogworthy (when I get back to full-time blogging).


  7. I read that story. (About the professor trapped in the body of a steer.) So long ago. Can't remember what happened.

    1. Um... I did provide a link to the story where you can read about what happened, if you're interested...

  8. What a unique story...I haven't ate meat since reading it.... how'd you run across it?

    1. I read it in a science fiction anthology in the 1970s. In those years I used to get paperbacks from used-book stores, and then I'd rip out the stories that I'd want to reread someday. This was one of those stories that I've kept for decades. Time for a final read and discard.

  9. I remember when that van Gogh thing came out. I read a lengthy article back then, with much more detail than the recent Salon article. What I read then swayed my opinion - I think it is likely true that Vincent did not shoot himself. This follow-up with the forensic expert's observations supporting the non-suicide version adds to my leaning.

    Would Vincent's not offing himself detract from the legend? From the artist? From the art? From the fame? From the price of his paintings?

    I've seen two large exhibits of van Gogh's works, one at age 19 and one at about age 52. The paintings are freaking amazing, easily drawing out of me emotions that I didn't walk into the museums with. He could PUT emotion into his paintings, and how he did that I don't have a clue.

    Some of his works are on permanent display at the Art Institute f Chicago, in the Impressionist rooms, along with Manet, Monets, Gauguins, Pisarros, and quite a few others. Anybody visiting Chicago should go see all of them. It's not an expensive ticket. It is very much worth the visit.


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