30 July 2015

The "highly piscivorous" tiger trout

The tiger trout... is a sterile, intergeneric hybrid of the brown trout (Salmo trutta) and the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The name derives from the pronounced vermiculations, evoking the stripes of a tiger. It is an anomaly in the wild, with the brook trout having 84 chromosomes and the brown trout 80. Records show instances as far back as 1944. The cross itself is unusual in that the parents are members of different genera...

Tiger trout can be produced reliably in hatcheries. This is done by fertilizing brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and heat shocking them, which causes creation of an extra set of chromosomes and increases survival from 5% to 85%...

Tiger trout are known to be highly piscivorous (fish-eating), and are a good control against rough fish populations...Their own population numbers can be tightly controlled as well, since they are sterile.
Photo cropped for size from original found at Reddit.

The Christian flag

A rant at Salon decries efforts to give precedence to the Christian flag above the national one:
The push began last week, when North Carolina’s Elizabeth Baptist Church Pastor Rit Varriale posted a video to YouTube calling people across the land “to stand up for traditional values and beliefs” by raising a Christian flag above the American one to send a message that “We’ll serve God before government… a government that tries to coerce us to violate our commitments to God.”...

In a conversation with Baptist Press, Variable added that “If you stop and think about it, [flag etiquette] is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches us. We are first and foremost Christians who are called to serve the living God.” (Flag etiquette dictates that the American flag always appear above all other flags on the same flagpole.)...

This spring, both Cochran and Bleckley County, Georgia, voted to raise a Christian flag over municipal buildings — despite the fact that as Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, “It sends a crystal clear message that one religion is favored above all others.”
The entry at Wikipedia offers some historical perspective:
The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom, and has been most popular among Protestant churches in North America, Africa and Latin America.  The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus. The white represents Jesus' purity...

The Christian Flag was first conceived on September 26, 1897, at Brighton Chapel on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York...During World War II the flag was flown along with the U.S. flag in a number of Lutheran churches, many of them with German backgrounds, who wanted to show their solidarity with the United States during the war with Germany... It can be seen today in or outside many Protestant churches throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa... 
The entry there goes on to discuss denominational flags and Christian elements in various national flags.

Photo credit: Flickr/Joanne Canen, Creative Commons License


Graphic - more in an audio sense than visually.


Rwandans have always cherished and loved their culture and hair has been part of their fashion. They have from time memorial had many hairstyles. Ibisage was for the grown-up children while men and women sported amasunzu and married women uruhanika...

Amasunzu had more than 30 forms and was common among teenagers, the youth and, in some cases, adult men. The style is designed by cutting some of the hair sideways, towards the middle, then leave it to grow.
“It is a style of elegance, hygiene; it reflected reality and maturity among girls,” said Epa Binamungu, a 60-year-old visual artist. “Most adolescent girls would use it to show pride; it showed that that a girl was a virgin...

In the olden times, when a girl got married she would change from amasunzu to a hairstyle that left the hair to grow freely (gutega urugori), implying that she was married and show respect for her husband and their children.
The youth who wear it today, especially young men, say amasunzu reflects self-realisation and the pride of embracing Rwandan culture.
More at The East African.  Photo via imgur and Reddit.

Neil Young vs. Monsanto. Monsanto wins.

Neil Young has released a short film that continues his campaign to draw attention to the alleged misdemeanours of the agrochemical corporation Monsanto. Seeding Fear is a 10-minute documentary telling the story of a farmer who defied Monsanto in court after having been accused of using the company’s copyrighted GM soya beans. He was one of a number of farmers sued by the huge corporation for copyright infringement...

The release of the film was timed to coincide with Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives on a measure to block mandatory labelling on foods made with GM crops. The Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act, has been dubbed the and the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” by opponents. Young’s intervention did not sway the vote: the bill, among whose architects was the Grocery Manufacturers Association, was passed by 275-150.
The video focuses on the decline of "seed-cleaning" whereby crop seeds are reused the next year.  The protagonist in the short film cleans seeds and has been threatened by Monsanto.  He can't clean seeds for the public because of the risk that Monsanto will send someone with GMO seed for him to clean, then sue him for doing so.

29 July 2015

Toddler learning experience

Cropped for size from the original at imgur, via Reddit.

Addendum:  Perhaps he's preparing early for a career as a lab technician:

(This photo is not a joke.  It illustrates a sight-saving technique that anyone working with caustics needs to understand and be ready to implement.)

Photo via Fresh Photons.

Vocal range

Discussed at Reddit Videos.

Chester Rows, 1895

Chester Rows consist of covered walkways at the first floor behind which are entrances to shops and other premises. At street level is another set of shops and other premises, many of which are entered by going down a few steps. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England, are unique; nothing precisely similar exists anywhere else in the world. Dating from the medieval era, the Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings, but their origin is still subject to speculation. In some places the continuity of the Rows has been blocked by enclosure or by new buildings, but in others modern buildings have retained the Rows in their designs. Undercrofts or "crypts" were constructed beneath the buildings in the Rows. The undercrofts were in stone while most of the buildings in the Rows were in timber. Today about 20 of the stone undercrofts still exist, but at the level of the Rows very little medieval fabric remains.
Photo credit: "The Cross and Rows, Chester, Cheshire, England, ca. 1895" by Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich.  Via Alabaster.

"The Old Man and the Sea" painted on glass

The Old Man and the Sea (Старик и море) is a 1999 paint-on-glass-animated short film directed by Aleksandr Petrov, based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film won many awards, including the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Work on the film took place in Montreal over a period of two and a half years and was funded by an assortment of Canadian, Russian and Japanese companies. French and English-language soundtracks to the film were released concurrently. It was the first animated film to be released in IMAX.

The film's technique, pastel oil paintings on glass, is mastered by only a handful of animators in the world. Petrov used his fingertips in addition to various paintbrushes to paint on different glass sheets positioned on multiple levels, each covered with slow-drying oil paints. After photographing each frame painted on the glass sheets, which was four times larger than the usual A4-sized canvas, he had to slightly modify the painting for the next frame and so on. For the shooting of the frames a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. 
I was familiar with the story, but fascinated by the technique used, so I tracked down this video about the artist:

The style of the animation reminded me of the classic The Man Who Planted Trees, but it appears to be technically different.  This video presents a step-by-step instruction on the painting-on-glass technique.

A sikh subjected to "random" searches at airports

Via imgur.

The global money shuffle

As reported by the BBC:
A global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study...

The Price of Offshore Revisited was written by James Henry, a former chief economist at the consultancy McKinsey, for the Tax Justice Network. ..

Mr Henry said his $21tn is actually a conservative figure and the true scale could be $32tn...  Mr Henry used data from the Bank of International Settlements, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and national governments. His study deals only with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts...

Mr Henry said that the super-rich move money around the globe through an "industrious bevy of professional enablers in private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries...

"Minnesota nice" drivers

"A family of ducks walked across the highway in front of traffic, causing cars to swerve out of their lanes and in front of other vehicles. Fortunately, no accidents happened and the family of ducks safely made it across the road."

The Minnesota State Patrol is advising drivers to not stop for wildlife that may get onto a busy interstate.  State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Neilson says she knows the advice doesn’t sit well with most people, but slamming the brakes could cause a chain-reaction crash.

If a crash had resulted in a death or serious injury due to a driver stopping for a duck or any other animal, that driver could potentially face a criminal charge.

24 July 2015

The Great Black Swamp

Raise your hand if you already knew about this.  Didn't think so...
The Great Black Swamp... was a glacially fed wetland in northwest Ohio and extreme northeast Indiana, United States, that existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century...

It stretched roughly from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west, eastward to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Port Clinton along the Lake Erie shore, and from (roughly) US 6 south to near Lima and Findlay. Near its southern edge at the southwestern corner of present-day Auglaize County, the swamp was so impervious to travel that wheeled transportation was impossible during most of the year, and local residents thought the rigors of travel to be unsuitable for anyone except adult men...

Although much of the area to the east, south, and north was settled in the early 19th century, the dense habitat and difficulty of travel through the swamp delayed its development by several decades. A corduroy road (from modern-day Fremont to Perrysburg) was constructed through the Maumee Road Lands in 1825 and paved with gravel in 1838, but travel in the wet season could still take days or even weeks. The impassibility of the swamp was an obstacle during the so-called Toledo War (1835–36); unable to get through the swamp, the Michigan and Ohio militias never came to battle. Settlement of the region was also inhibited by endemic malaria. The disease was a chronic problem for residents of the region until the area was drained and former mosquito-breeding grounds were dried up.
A tip of the blogging hat to reader Dan Noland, who in response to my post about muck farms sent me links about this and the Kankakee Outwash Plain.  You learn something every day.

Catch of the day


A gull catches and swallows a starling mother as it returned to the nest...

Photo credit: Dougie McColl, 51, from Barrhead, Glasgow/ DOOGZ MCCOLL / CATERS NEWS

Travel tip

(Helen Mirren) admits she never takes her own garments away with her, instead choosing to pick up outfits from second-hand stores as soon as she arrives at her destination.

She says, "I love a good charity shop, especially when I'm travelling. When I'm going to cold places, I take nothing - just underwear. On my way from the airport, I ask the driver to take me to a good charity shop, and I buy boots, socks, trousers, jumpers, sweaters, hats and scarves - usually for £30."

But the actress never keeps the items: "On the way back to the airport, I have it all in a big bag and drop it off at another charity shop."

20 July 2015

"The Art of the Opening Shot"

A list of the movies used for this compilation is posted at the YouTube link under "show more" in case you want to open it in another window while the video is playing rather than waiting until the end.

The soundtrack for this video is the subject of a separate post just below this one.

Via Kottke.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir performs "Lux Aurumque"

Eric Whitacre... is an American composer of choral, wind and electronic music. He has served as a guest conductor for ensembles throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. He is one of the most popular and performed composers of his generation, his works being part of standard choral and symphonic repertoire.  He is inspired by pop and electronic music and is known for his work with virtual choirs—creating choral community via the internet.
Even if you don't like choral music, you should watch a couple minutes of this video to see what can be done with webcams, microphones, and a healthy dollop of imagination.

Addendum:  The soundtrack of the video I posted above this one sounded familiar, and with a quick search I discovered that I had posted the musical arrangement back in 2010.  I think it's worth a repost now.

And here's the wiki on "Lux Aurumque" -
Lux Aurumque ("Light and Gold", sometimes "Light of Gold") is a choral composition in one movement by Eric Whitacre. It is a Christmas piece based on a Latin poem of the same name, which translates as "Light, warm and heavy as pure gold, and the angels sing softly to the new born baby". In 2000, Whitacre set a short Latin text for mixed choir a cappella. In 2005, he wrote an arrangement for wind ensemble. The choral version became known through Whitacre's project Virtual Choir in 2009. The piece is also available for men's choir. Its duration is about four minutes.

NASA's budget as a percentage of the federal budget

Via Reddit, where the top comment provides an informed discussion of the relation of these two budgets.

19 July 2015

Our grandparents saw things we will never see

"Everywhere men and women reported monarchs flying by the millions in September in gigantic, undulating waves extending for miles; like the passenger pigeon migrations of the age, these swarms sometimes obscured the sun, blurring day into night."
From William Leach's Butterfly People: An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World, citing "A Swarm of Butterflies" in the September 1868 issue of American EntomologistPhoto Credit.

17 July 2015

It's more than just a rock

It starts out as a story about three kids digging up a rock.   But it becomes much more than that.  Easily worth three minutes of your time.

In your face

As reported by Guns.com:
Some residents of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, are upset over the choice of one local business’ name, which they claim just does not convey the type of character they want in their small town.
Our business is F-Bomb Ordnance, which is a firearms business,” co-owner Dr. Geoff Gorres explained...

But Gorres, who is an emergency room doctor in addition to co-owner of the gun shop, said the play on words is a constitutional-protected right and the name was never created to offend or otherwise cause furor...

Amy Klein, who was one of about a dozen residents who took to the floor during the meeting to speak out against the name, said the blatant use of such a euphemism lowers the standards of the community and does the opposite of what they are trying to achieve by restoring the Main Street area.

But Gorres said he believes the name does no such thing and that he cannot control what other people may find offensive.  “There are a lot of things that offend me in America,” he said. “And I just have to deal with them.”..

But Gorres said the controversy isn’t only about the name, but the fact that they sell firearms. Gorres agreed and said that is “absolutely” part of the problem.  “If the name of our business was F-bomb Records, I don’t think that we’d be having this discussion,” Gorres said.

Dumpster-diving for beauty products

Excerpts from an article at Racked:
"[Selling] makeup is like selling drugs," James Jugan, a New Jersey man, says. Jugan has sold items from the dumpster since 1978, but for the last few years his biggest moneymakers came from the beauty industry. "It’s like having a license to print money. It’s amazing."..

Wimbush started her own [Facebook group], and in just three months she had close to 2,000 members buying and selling items like Urban Decay Naked palettes and Ecotools makeup brushes. Many of the members are there for the sole incentive of high-end cosmetics at dramatically slashed prices—dismissing the obvious, large other price, of course: the item’s source.

"[Sellers] clean up their stuff and [customers] know it's from the dumpster," Wimbush says. "People are willing to take that chance because it's at a really, really discounted price."

Amanda, a professional makeup artist and mother of two, started diving and selling about six weeks ago in Arizona. She says the same dumpster can vary wildly, depending on management. One week it might hold items that look straight off the shelf, the next they’ve "cut bristles off the brushes, gouged out all the eyeshadow, and is completely worthless." ..

All the divers we spoke to were aware of the questionable legality involved. "It's a gray area," Jugan says. "It's worth getting caught. Because the worst they can get you with is trespassing. That's almost like paying for the product. I'll take a trespassing charge once a month if I can get away with getting more product. It's worth it." A typical box haul can yield anywhere between zero to $1,200 worth of products. It’s a gamble, but one these divers keep throwing dice for...

The products making their way to the Facebook marketplace go for ridiculously reduced prices. For example, Too Faced Cocoa Powder Foundation Sephora, which retails for $34, goes for $12 in one group. A bundle including Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer and Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water goes for $15. Sephora retail prices for those same two items jump to $36 and $32, respectively.


Via The Soul is Bone.

What is the plastic device on this gymnast's hands?

The photo above was one of the Pictures of the Day in The Telegraph (credit AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

My attention was drawn to the young woman's hands, where strips of plastic are secured along her palms.  They would obviously serve to miminize friction when her hands rotate on the bar, but I don't ever remember having seen such a device used during televised Olympic competitions.

Surely some reader out there will have a child in gymnastics training and can clarify for us what these things are called and whether they are training devices or perhaps a new improvement in the sport designed to enhance the health of the athletes.

Giant books

Late medieval choir books

From medievalfragments:
While most medieval manuscripts are of a size that could be easily picked up and carried, there are some books that are so large and so heavy that it would take two (or more) people to move them...

There are a number of potential explanations on offer. In the first place, size tends to reflect importance. Because large-format manuscripts often contain the Word of God, it is very possible that some bookmakers wished to reflect the importance of the text with a suitably impressive material format. Alternatively (or perhaps additionally), some have suggested that these books were meant to reflect the power and prestige of the donors who paid for their commission — a wealthy bishop or nobleman perhaps, who wished to memorialize his name in the production of a massive and showy pandect. Others have provided more pragmatic reasoning, suggesting that these books were designed big in order to rest on a lectern for public reading — their large size making it easier for readers in a church to see the page.

Indeed, the collective reading of large-format books stationed on lecterns has been recorded in a number of medieval illuminations and paintings, such as the image below:
More information on giant books at the link.

14 July 2015

12 July 2015


"Five years ago, a legendary art dealer left his home in Santa Fe, traveled to an undisclosed location somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and hid a 42‑pound chest filled with priceless treasure. Why?"  More information in a long read at California Sunday.

Students at M.I.T. figured out how to game the Massachusetts lottery.  "The math whizzes quickly discovered that buying about $100,000 in Cash WinFall tickets on those days would virtually guarantee success. Buying $600,000 worth of tickets would bring a 15%–20% return on investment... By 2005, the group had earned almost $8 million with its system..."

An article posted during the Glastonbury Festival discussed various devices available for purchase that allow you to pee in public places.

A trailer for an upcoming documentary movie about Chris Farley.

Reminders to exercise caution when first consuming edible marijuana products.

The American Recall Center appears to be an educational website offering "drug and medical device recall information."  When you read the fine print you discover that the website is "sponsored by Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., a law firm focusing on providing legal services to clients injured by negligent corporations and/or entities."

A remastered renovation of "The Third Man" is now playing in theaters.  (See my old posts re The Third Man Theme and the closing scene where Anna walks out of Holly's life.) (and this re the location of that and other scenes in the movie).

The reason your eyes get irritated at public swimming pools is not the chlorine per se. "It’s chlorine mixed with poop and sweat and a lot of other things we bring into the water with us.”

A gif illustrating the timeline of full marriage equality in the United States.

A retired United Methodist minister immolated himself on a street in Texas.  "He called on the community to repent and said he was “giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart” for those who were lynched in his home town as well as for those who did the lynching, hoping to address lingering racism... Moore explained that his death was not an impulsive act, but one to which he had given great thought... Moore left behind a copy of a New Yorker article... about the Tibetan Buddhist monks’ protest of China’s domination of Tibet. They, too, set themselves on fire."

A reminder of your rights when detained by a policeman.

A remarkable disc golf hole-in-one.

"To escape the demons of his mother’s death and ease his pain," a man in Boston murdered his mother's doctor.  "Across the United States, hospital shootings are now a monthly occurrence. In the year leading up to Davidson’s murder, there were more than a dozen, claiming 15 lives, and the trend is clearly on the rise.. While not all hospital shootings are aimed at doctors, many are..."

The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy - 10 hours of cinema - fails the Bechdel testNever do two named female characters talk to each other.

A well-deserved and long-overdue tribute to Dr. Donald W. Seldin, chair emeritus of internal medicine at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School - the most memorable teacher I ever had, and the man who taught me everything I know about DKA.

A teenager in Arkansas woke up with an earache; he reached into his ear and pulled out a 4-inch centipede.

Was President Zachary Taylor murdered?

Safe at third base after an innovative slide.

"There’s so much milk flowing out of U.S. cows these days that some is ending up in dirt pits because dairies can’t find buyers... Agri-Mark, a 1,200-dairy cooperative in New England that had $1.1 billion of sales last year, started pouring skim milk last month into holes used for livestock manure. It was the first time in five decades, and farmers so far have unloaded 12 truckloads, or 600,000 pounds (272 metric tons)..."

A subterranean urban farm in London grows vegetables hydroponically to supply London restaurants with fresh veggies.  No sunlight required.  Travel distances from farm to user negligible.

If you like to fish, or just enjoy a quiet evening on the lake, and are sick and tired of assholes who speed around in power boats, you can get enormous amounts of schadenfreude by viewing this video.  Here it is remixed with a loop set to music.

Here's your feel-good story for the day.  In South Carolina, a school custodian lost her home in a fire.  Students at the school met with their superintendent and with the help of United Carpenters for Christ, built a new home for the custodian.

In my view, the #1 candidate for this year's Darwin Award is a Texas man who went swimming with alligators. "...Woodward ignored verbal warnings and a posted "No Swimming Alligators" sign and seemed to mock the deadly creatures before going in the water. "He removed his shirt, removed his billfold ... someone shouted a warning and he said 'blank the alligators' and jumped into the water and almost immediately yelled for help..." Video at the link (sfw).

The runner-up for the award would be the man in Maine who put a fireworks mortar tube on his head and ignited it.  "There was no rushing him to the hospital. There was no Devon left when I got there."  "Devon was not the kind of person who would do something stupid."  Alcohol was involved.

A five-minute video illustrates how we are living in "exponential times."

"Attackers on a motorbike threw acid in the faces of three teenage girls on their way to school in Afghanistan's western Herat province... The girls, age 16 to 18, are students at one of the biggest girls' schools in Herat city... "This is the punishment for going to school," the men told the girls after pouring the acid on them."

Hackers were able to give orders to a German missile battery. "The attack took place on anti-aircraft ‘Patriot’ missiles on the Syrian border. The American-made weapons had been stationed there by the Bundeswehr (German army) to protect Nato ally Turkey. According to the civil service magazine, the missile system carried out “unexplained” orders. It was not immediately clear when these orders were carried out and what they were."

Rural Costa Ricans paint their satellite dishes to turn them into billboards.

According to the latest Gallup poll - "In the second quarter of 2015, Democrats regained an advantage over Republicans in terms of Americans' party affiliation. A total of 46% of Americans identified as Democrats (30%) or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party (16%), while 41% identified as Republicans (25%) or leaned Republican (16%). The two parties were generally even during the previous three quarters, including the fourth quarter of 2014, when the midterm elections took place."

India has experienced a massive medical school admissions scandal.  "Question papers were leaked, answer sheets rigged, impersonators - themselves bright, young students - were hired to sit for candidates, and seats sold to the highest bidder."

The rails are a large family of birds.  The etymology of the word has nothing to do with railings or railroads.  Rather, it derives from the birds' harsh cry and the French word "rale" - just like the inspiratory crackling lung sounds.

Oreos are crushing their competition.  "Today, nearly one out of every five dollars spent on cookies is spent on an Oreo... Oreos are dominant globally, too. The brand, which accounts for roughly 5 percent of worldwide cookie sales, has more than three times the foothold of any other cookie."

When Sweden plays Denmark in sports, the scorecard reads SWE-DEN.  The unused letters from their names spell...

The awesome creature in the header for this divertimento is a Cecropia Moth, photographed by reader Rob Witwer in Colorado.  Cecropias are members of the group commonly referred to as the giant silkmoths; they are impressive not just for their size, but for the intricate beauty of the patterns on their wings.  On hot summer nights they are drawn to the light from building windows.  Raising caterpillars of any of these moths provides an unparalleled experience for children.  Sadly, these magnificent adults - including the one in the photo above - die within a couple days because they are born without mouthparts, so they cannot feed.  They have to live off stored energy until they can mate; that is their only biologic purpose for existing.

The barn of two butterfly enthusiasts - updated

Photographed in Marquette County, Wisconsin, on a "century farm" (owned by the same family for 100 years) where in the summer of 2013 I enjoyed a delightful lunch in the shade of old trees in the front yard.  The current occupants have decorated their barn in a manner consistent with their interest in butterflies.

On the far left is a barn quilt depicting a stylized butterfly.  To the right of that are wooden appliques representing each of the over 50 species of butterfly seen on the farm - handcrafted at a scale of 1 foot to 1 inch.  It's not only an artistic accomplishment, but a documentation of a remarkable "life list" of species from one location, reflecting the owners' devotion to maintaining a wide variety of habitats and plants on their farm.

Update:  I returned to the farm this summer and was able to get a better image of the barn, which replaces the poor-quality one I posted two years ago.  My visit was part of a field trip to nearby Summerton Bog, a Wisconsin State Natural Area.  Despite the "swampy" implications of the name, the property is "a highly diverse complex of low meadow, bog, fen, tamarack, and shrub communities."  I visited with friends from the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association -

As soon as I stepped out of my car,  I was greeted by an Eastern Tailed-Blue, nectaring on a butterfly weed:

There were numerous Baltimore Checkerspots -

- which I have previously posted here puddling on scat.

The Great Spangled Fritillary on this ?monarda has lost a wingtip -

My last photo from the trip is of an American Copper -

The hindwings are a little foreshortened in the image because of the angle I took to sneak up on it for the photo, but the colors are true.  The butterfly is only the size of a thumbnail, with remarkable beauty packaged into that small body.

After several hours in the field, we sat at a picnic table under the oak trees by the barn, and counted a total of 22 species seen that morning.

SWBA has five more field trips scheduled for the summer.  Anyone is welcome to join us - you don't have to be a member (but note all trips are weather-dependent).

It's not a Halloween costume

It's a condor chick.

Photo credit: Paul Nicholls / Barcroft Media

Don't expect rivers of neon on Pluto

I'm really charged up about the coming flyby of Pluto two days from now.  Popular Science has a guide regarding what to expect.
With its suite of optical, ultraviolet, and infrared imaging tools, the spacecraft will swoop past Pluto at a distance of about 7,800 miles. From there, the 1,500-mile-wide planet will appear about as large as a basketball that’s four feet away...

The spacecraft’s trajectory was specifically planned to catch glimpses of Pluto’s four tinier moons as well—Styx, Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos...

Pluto’s atmosphere is thought to contain neon, and at the freezing cold temperatures on Pluto, neon condenses into a liquid. So it is technically possible that neon could flow like water on Pluto, but it is highly unlikely...

Charon might be suctioning off some of Pluto’s atmosphere. If so, it would be the first known case of a planet and a moon sharing an atmosphere...

10 July 2015

Europe's most populous cities in 1400

Found at The Land of Maps.  I presume for the purposes of this map, London was not considered part of "Europe."

"Net worth tax" on billionaires proposed

This is not Bernie Sanders' "socialist" proposal.  This was a recommendation proposed in 1999...

...by Donald Trump:
"...on one issue that would affect billionaires like him personally, Donald Trump could not have been more liberal. According to this CNN article from 1999, Trump proposed erasing the national debt—with a one-time “wealth tax” on the mega-rich.

Trump, a prospective candidate for the Reform Party presidential nomination, is proposing a one-time "net worth tax" on individuals and trusts worth $10 million or more.
And he even used language that would later become slogans for the Occupy movement to sell his proposal.
“By my calculations, 1 percent of Americans, who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan,” Trump said. “The other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes … Personally this plan would cost me hundreds of millions of dollars, but in all honesty, it’s worth it.”
Via Daily Kos.  Here are some more excerpts from the CNN article:
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has a plan to pay off the national debt, grant a middle class a tax cut, and keep Social Security afloat: tax rich people like himself...

By Trump's calculations, his proposed 14.25 percent levy on such net worth would raise $5.7 trillion and wipe out the debt in one full swoop...

"The plan I am proposing today does not involve smoke and mirrors, phony numbers, financial gimmicks, or the usual economic chicanery you usually find in Disneyland-on-the-Potomac," Trump said...

Trump, whose own net worth is an estimated $5 billion, says the wealthy would not suffer if his economic plan were enacted
Wouldn't it be interesting if he were to raise the same point during this year's Republican presidential debates?

09 July 2015

Results of the TYWKIWDBI presidential preference poll

Two weeks ago I invited readers of this blog to indicate their preference for the next president of the United States via a poll in the right sidebar.  Voting is now closed, so I'll remove the poll soon so that it doesn't distract from the useful items in that sidebar, but I'll transcribe the final results here for future reference.  1,365 readers participated:
Bernie Sanders               637 (46%)
Hillary Clinton               276 (20%)
Republican candidates   255 (19%)
"None of the above"      164 (12%)
Other Democrats             33 (  2%)
The Republican candidates ranked as follows:
Rand Paul 52
Scott Walker 37
Donald Trump 30
Jeb Bush 24
Ben Carson 21
Ted Cruz 19
Marco Rubio 13
Carly Fiorina 12
Chris Christie 11
John Kasich 10
Bobby Jindal 9
Mike Huckabee 8
Rick Perry 5
George Pataki 2
Lindsey Graham 2
Rick Santorum 2
I'll preface my comments with the disclaimer that this poll was in no way scientific or predictive.  I did this as a way to get a broad view of the readership of this blog, and in part to help guide me in my blogging for the next 16 months.

The ranking of the Republican candidates seems to be reflective of their favorability and popularity in the country as a whole.  The group at the top and the group at the bottom match up pretty well with what I see in national media and hear from my Republican friends.  Donald Trump's position at #3 might be real, but I suspect there may have been some trolling by readers who otherwise would have selected "none of the above."

The biggest surprise of the entire venture was of course the extremely strong showing by Bernie Sanders.  His strength was evident even within a few hours of the start of the poll, and remained unchanged for the following two weeks.  That might mean that there are a lot of liberal/progressive readers of this blog - or that liberal/progressive readers tend to participate more actively in online polls.  My own view is that the voting reflects the international distribution of TYWKIWDBI visitors, with Canadian, U.K., and European readers taking advantage of an opportunity to chime in on the topic of U.S. politics.

So how does this inform future posts on this blog?  I obviously don't write to please an audience; this is a noncommercial blog written for my own enjoyment, and I view readers as welcome visitors peeking over my shoulder.  Numerous comments appended to the poll reinforce my own view that I want to keep politics to a minimum here for the coming year.  I will take advantage of opportunities to post humorous or frankly WTF events from the campaigns, but for the most part there's no advantage in spending time writing up events until at least after the initial primaries winnow down the field and highlight the platforms of the parties.

The exception to this plan is that I obviously need to pay some attention to Bernie Sanders and this "revolution," which reminds me of the populist appeal Ron Paul exerted some years ago and which I featured at that time.  I need to read and post about socialism, social democracies, and populist movements.  But I'll try to keep all this to a minimum that can be zoomed past with a flick of the mouse.

06 July 2015

Toxins in 19th-century clothing - updated

This dress came with both a low‐cut bodice for evening wear and a more buttoned‐up bodice for daytime wear. Many Victorian dresses, including this one, were made with both styles of top and the advantage of “Emerald Green” was that it kept its bright colour in both natural and gas lighting. Collection of Glennis Murphy. Photo credit: Image © 2015 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

An exhibition at Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum draws attention to the health hazards of 19th-century clothing.
Before inventor Carl Wilhelm Scheele came along near the end of the 18th century, there was no colorfast green, only the option to do a blue overlay with yellow or vice versa. By mixing arsenic and copper, Scheele developed a pigment that would hold, whether in wallpaper, paintings, or clothing. It also happened to look fantastic under natural and new gas light, an important duality for the time. By the mid-19th century, when, as Matthews David notes “nature was disappearing from the environment,” this “Emerald Green” was incredibly popular in artificial flowers. It was also highly toxic, even deadly, and it’s no coincidence that Baudelaire titled his book of tormented poems Les Fleurs du Mal — The Flowers of Evil — just as the death of a young artificial florist was being investigated.
I presume the deadliness of the pigment derived primarily from its manufacture, not from wearing the clothing, as the embedded image of a lithograph of arsenic-damaged hands illustrates.

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging hat to reader BobTheScientist for providing reports that the arsenic in crafted materials can be volatilized as arsine.
In 1814 a new arsenic-based green pigment was discovered by two German chemists working in the town of Schweinfurt. This became known in England as emerald green, and for a time it was the finest green pigment known, rapidly displacing Scheele's green. Unfortunately, however, it was also poisonous, and if exposed to dampness it decomposed into arsine, a toxic gas.
I then remembered reading years ago a proposition that Napoleon had been poisoned by exposure to the arsenic in the wallpaper at his confinement.  Forensic study of his hair, however, has not confirmed that hypothesis; he did have high levels of arsenic in his body, but these were chronic, not pre-terminal, and his levels were comparable to those of others living in that era because of the uncontrolled medicinal and industrial use of the metal.

My wife also forwarded to me a 2010 post in Jane Austen's World entitled "Emerald Green or Paris Green, the Deadly Regency Pigment" -
Their product appealed to the Lancashire cotton industry which used the chemical in pigments and dyes. It was also used by other industries such as glass manufacture (as a decolouriser), in the production of lead-shot, leather tanning, soaps, lampshades, wallpaper manufacture (to create green and yellow print), pharmaceuticals, agriculture for sheep dips, children’s toys, candles, a highly effective rat poison, etc...

Emerald green was also used to color confectionary and cake decorations...

In 1861, Dr W. Fraser tested wallpaper that contained arsenic.  The threat, he said, came from breathing the dust of the papers, especially flocked wallpaper...
More at the link.

A national movement requires "affirmative consent" for sex

From the StarTribune:
The University of Minnesota is joining a national movement requiring students to obtain “affirmative consent” from their sex partners or risk being ­disciplined for sexual assault.

The policy change, sometimes known as the “yes means yes” rule, has been sweeping college campuses across the country since California passed the first such law last year.

The U’s new rule, which is poised to take effect this month after a 30-day comment period, says that sex is OK only if both parties express consent through “clear and unambiguous words or actions.” Absent that, it would fit the U’s ­definition of sexual assault.

So far, the plan has prompted little dissent at the U. But nationally, critics have derided such policies as absurd and dangerous, particularly when it comes to protecting the rights of the accused...

Hanson, who serves on the presidential policy committee that endorsed the new approach, said she sees it mainly as a teaching tool. “We’re in the education business,” she said. “What this is trying to get students to understand is that silence doesn’t equal consent.”

"America the Beautiful" quarters

The United States is in the process of issuing a series of commemorative quarters celebrating natural wonders of the country.  These America the Beautiful quarters are not as well known as the 50 State Quarters, in part because the series is not scheduled for completion until 2021.

In the meantime you can use them to win bar bets asking if the turkey is featured on an American coin.  Or a frog -

Or a volcano...

Some of our "founding fathers" believed in extraterrestrial life

Benjamin Franklin maintained that every star is a sun, and every sun nourishes a “chorus of worlds” just like ours. Ethan Allen, the self-taught leader of the Green Mountain Boys, insisted that the inhabitants of these other earths included intelligent beings just like us. David Rittenhouse, the famous Philadelphia inventor and astronomer, made it official in a 1775 lecture that was reprinted for the benefit of the Second Continental Congress. “The doctrine of the plurality of worlds,” he said, “is inseparable from the principles of astronomy.”...

If these peace-loving aliens were a threat to anything, it was to theology. John Adams put his finger on the problem as a young man in a diary entry from 1756. Given the near-certainty of alien life, he reasoned, Evangelical Christians must either condemn our extraterrestrial brothers to everlasting perdition or suppose that Jesus shows up on an endless number of planets in ever-changing alien incarnations. Thomas Paine later made the same point in print, rather more caustically: “The person who is irreverently called the Son of God, and sometimes God himself, would have nothing else to do than to travel from world to world, in an endless succession of death, with scarcely a momentary interval of life.”
More at the link re the roots of these theories in Greco-Roman antiquity.

Mystery butterfly - aberrant Pearl Crescent ?

This butterfly was spotted and photographed by Dan Sonnenberg on a farm in central Wisconsin this past weekend.   The image was shared with other members of the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association, none of whom had ever seen such a coloration pattern.

After much pondering and web-searching, the current opinion is that it is an aberrant form of a Pearl Crescent.  For comparison, here is a "normal" Pearl Crescent I photographed a couple years ago:

The size and wing shape (and time of year, and location) are similar, but the coloration is dramatically different in the mystery butterfly.  Mike Reese, president of SWBA, found this comparison photo at Bug Guide -

- of a butterfly presumptively identified as an aberrant Pearl Crescent.

Dan was able to capture a view of the underside of the mystery butterfly's wing -

- which is at least marginally Pearl Crescent-ish.  (Here's one from my files)

The photos of the "mystery butterfly" have been submitted to the North American Butterfly Association, which will publish the images and solicit professional opinions.

If any readers here have suggestions or know of images of similar butterflies, please don't hesitate to append a comment.

03 July 2015

Bernie Sanders in Madison

Bernie Sanders brought his message to Madison, Wisconsin two nights ago.  In view of the tentative results of the poll in the right sidebar of this blog (which I'll discuss when voting closes next week), I decided I owed it to TYWKIWDBI readers to attend the rally to see for myself what this political movement is all about.  The photo above was published in The Guardian yesterday.  The camera angle is from the upper deck behind the speaker's podium.  I have drawn a red circle around myself in the far upper right corner of the image; sufficiently enlarged, you can see about a dozen pixels depicting me wearing one of my Neatorama t-shirts.  The rest of the photos below were ones I took at the rally.

Local news media had indicated that there would be large crowd, so I left home early because I don't have the stamina to stand for hours.  I arrived 45 minutes before the scheduled start time, and even then had difficulty finding a good seat (as indicated by the position of the little circle).  Fortunately for events such as this, visuals are not crucial, and the audio system in the auditorium was superb.

The Veterans Coliseum at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison has a seating capacity of 10,000 for sporting events.  By the time the program started, the building was full to the rafters -

- including seating on the coliseum floor, so the estimates of 10,000 attendees are certainly accurate and perhaps conservative.  As Bernie Sanders was speaking, I took a photo toward the podium -

- which shows people standing in the entrance ramps (probably in violation of fire codes).

So much for the numbers.  Now, who were these people?  In terms of "diversity", the crowd is overwhelmingly white.  The state of Wisconsin is 86% white, and this crowd was even more skewed.  Beyond that, it was hard to me to see any other homogeneity.   There were girls with purple hair and farmers with John Deere shirts.  Lots of older people, but plenty of college-age students.

The most uniform characteristic of the crowd would of course be their political beliefs - liberal and progressive.  I was startled, but not actually surprised, to see a man standing in the aisle next to me wearing an old Paul Wellstone tee shirt.  Wellstone was a progressive and activist in the Minnesota Democratic party who died in a plane crash 13 years ago.  Although Wisconsin's current governor (Scott Walker) and legislature are Republican, the state has historically been home to a strong Progressive movement, moreso in Madison - home of the University of Wisconsin -  than in Milwaukee.  I should think there is no doubt that Bernie Sanders chose Madison as a favorable spot outside New England to kickstart his campaign.  Energizing a grassroots base here would also be useful because of the physical proximity to the adjacent state of Iowa, which holds an early and influential caucus when the poltical theater begins in earnest.

I won't use this post to discuss the content of Sanders' speech, which presumably is a stump speech that will be repeated endlessly in the months to come.  My interest was in the crowd's response.  Knowing that apart from a few curiosity-seekers, everyone in the crowd was liberal/progressive, I knew that there would be applause when Sanders attacked Scott Walker and the Republicans, but I was surprised by the energy with which they responded to his talking points.  He spoke about organized labor and the right of women to control their bodies and the cost of higher education and frequently about income inequality.  But at one point he said if elected president he would have a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees that they must favor overturning Citizens United because Citizens United is undermining American democracy.  The crowd went wild -

My photo is blurry because people were jumping up and down and yelling. I would expect that response from a small crowd in a Jon Stewart audience, but hadn't expected it from such a large mass of people.  "Citizens United" boils down to the ability of wealthy individuals and corporations to influence American elections.  Opposition to Citizens United is probably the ultimate populist emotional trigger, and this immense crowd responded enthusiastically.  This requires a certain degree of political sophistication, and obviously people who attend rallies are expected to be more knowledgeable about issues.  Whether this enthusiasm can be generated in a broader population remains to be seen.  Ten thousand people in Wisconsin hope so.

For those interested in hearing Bernie Sanders' speech, here it is in its entirety.  The  embedded video will include an unneeded crowd-rallying introduction - most of you will prefer to use this link to view just Bernie Sanders.  Or you can click the video below and move the progress slider to the 8:30 mark.

Hair jewelry explained

From Death Made Material: The Hair Jewelry of the Brontës:
If the Brontës’ things feel haunted in some way, like Emily’s desk and its contents, then the amethyst bracelet made from the entwined hair of Emily and Anne is positively ghost-ridden. Over time the colors have faded, the strands grown stiff and brittle. Charlotte may have asked Emily and Anne for the locks as a gesture of sisterly affection. Or, the tresses were cut from one or both of their corpses, an ordinary step in preparing the dead for burial in an era when mourning jewelry with hair became part of the grieving process. Charlotte must have either mailed the hair to a jeweler or “hairworker” (a title for makers of hair jewelry) or brought it to her in person. Then she probably wore it, carrying on her body a physical link to her sisters, continuing to touch them wherever they were...

Part of the body yet easy to separate from it, hair retained its luster long after the rest of the person decayed. Portable, with a shine like certain gems or metals, hair moved easily from being an ornamental feature of the body to being an ornament worn by others. By the 1840s, hair jewelry had become so fashionable that advertisements for hair artisans, designers, and hairworkers ran in newspapers, and magazines printed a sea of articles on the minute particulars of the fad. The London jeweler Antoni Forrer, a well-known professional hairworker in the 1840s, had fifty workers fully employed at his Regent Street store. At the Great Exhibition, around eleven displays of the art garnered glowing reviews, including pictures embroidered in hair of Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales, and the Hamburgh Exchange. A tall vase “composed entirely of human hair” and a “horn filled with artificial flowers in human hair, representing the horn of plenty,” were other impressive exhibits. Hairwork kept women’s hands busy at home, another one of those many domestic arts, like needlework, quilling, shellwork, and taxidermy. Fashion magazines discussed the homecraft of hairworking and included jewelry patterns, instructions, and tips. Hair wreaths, set into shadow boxes or under glass domes, also had their day, as did the use of hair in drawing and painting. One industrious woman copied a Rembrandt using only hair in a cross-stitch. Charlotte brought the device of a “cambric handkerchief with a coronet wrought upon it in black hair” into more than one early story, a means of signaling that the male owner has a secret lover who embroidered it with her own hair.

The hairwork process—involving boiling the hair to clean it, then weaving it on specially designed round tables (which could be mail ordered) with a series of weights that were attached to the strands of hair—was described in instructional manuals, such as Mark Campbell’s popular 1865 Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work. The tight weave of the bracelet with Anne’s and Emily’s hair, pictured at the start of this chapter, was likely achieved this way, although in this case probably by a professional, who then attached the ends of the hair to the metal. A bracelet made of Anne’s hair, from locks given to Ellen Nussey by Charlotte after Anne’s death, has a slightly different weave, and Ellen may have made it herself. By the time Ellen died, she had at least three hair bracelets, four hair brooches, a hair ring, and a couple of loose locks, much of it hair from the Brontë family.
Much more at the very interesting Longreads source.

Offered without comment...

Via Reddit.

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