30 September 2015

Are record-LOW temperatures near Greenland ominous?

Most areas of the globe are experiencing above-average temperatures.  So why are scientists especially concerned about an anomalous area of record-LOW temperatures near Greenland?
First of all, it’s no error. I checked with Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, who confirmed what the map above suggests — some parts of the North Atlantic Ocean saw record cold in the past eight months...

And there’s not much reason to doubt the measurements — the region is very well sampled. “It’s pretty densely populated by buoys, and at least parts of that region are really active shipping lanes, so there’s quite a lot of observations in the area,” Arndt said. “So I think it’s pretty robust analysis.”..

There is strong evidence — not just from our study — that this is a consequence of the long-term decline of the Gulf Stream System, i.e. the Atlantic ocean’s overturning circulation AMOC, in response to global warming.
More at the link and in Wikipedia:
In 2005, British researchers noticed that the net flow of the northern Gulf Stream had decreased by about 30% since 1957. Coincidentally, scientists at Woods Hole had been measuring the freshening of the North Atlantic as Earth becomes warmer. Their findings suggested that precipitation increases in the high northern latitudes, and polar ice melts as a consequence. By flooding the northern seas with lots of extra fresh water, global warming could, in theory, divert the Gulf Stream waters that usually flow northward, past the British Isles and Norway, and cause them to instead circulate toward the equator. If this were to happen, Europe's climate would be seriously impacted.

The "Pickwick" phenomenon

Excerpts from an interesting article in The Atlantic, discussing the publication of the illustrated Pickwick Papers - the graphic novel of its time:
In the afternoon it was common to see men who, by the state of them, had walked dusty miles to lay their hands upon a Pickwick; while in the evening, in every public house and inn the conversation was of the latest number and little else … Mr Pickwick was there, in front of everyone, like a real person, not as a hazy mist of head-hidden words: every man, woman and child had exactly the same image of Mr Pickwick in his or her consciousness. When a dustman talked of Mr Pickwick, a lord could know exactly who was meant because of the pictures. Your Mr Pickwick was my Mr Pickwick, was a universal Mr Pickwick—a being of fiction, a man-created man, was suddenly recognised by all. This was unprecedented in human affairs...

By late 1836, Pickwick was no longer just a serial novel. It was merchandise (Pickwick cigars, hats, canes, soaps), spin-offs (theatrical performances, bootleg editions, joke books), advertisements (on omnibuses, in newspapers). It was a virtual world—delivered in portable monthly episodes, the fictional action synchronized to match the nonfictional calendar—and it invaded the real one, creating a cross-class, national audience. The press run for its 19th and final installment was 40,000 copies, astonishing for the time. “Literature” is not a big enough category for Pickwick. It defined its own, a new one that we have learned to call “entertainment.”
Like other English majors, I was quite familiar with the stories of Americans waiting at the shipyards for the latest installment of The Old Curiosity Ship to arrive -
The hype surrounding the conclusion of the series was unprecedented; Dickens fans were reported to have stormed the piers in New York City, shouting to arriving sailors (who might have already read the final chapters in the United Kingdom), "Is Little Nell alive?"
- but I had not heard these aspects regarding Pickwick, one of Dickens' first publications.

The Atlantic article cited above was written in response to a newly-published novel which focuses on the death-by-shotgun of Robert Seymour, the illustrator of Pickwick, and speculates about the forces that may have driven him to suicide.  Death and Mr. Pickwick sounds quite interesting; I've requested it from our local library.

This is not the Mayo Clinic's basketball team

Well, not exactly.  I mean, it is, but not technically.

The photo shows members of the Minnesota Lynx' WNBA professional basketball team.  The jersey logo in 128-point font is explained in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal:
The Minnesota Lynx on Monday will announce a multiyear sponsorship deal that will put the Mayo Clinic's logo on the team's jerseys starting this summer.

Lynx officials say the deal is the "most extensive marquee jersey partnership in WNBA history," but they declined to disclose the terms of the deal. Only five other clubs currently have jersey sponsors.
The new jerseys prominently feature the Mayo Clinic logo across the chest, with the Lynx logo moving to the left shoulder. They also have a Boost Mobile logo beneath at the bottom of the jersey under a multiyear, leaguewide sponsorship deal...

That alliance includes plans for a new training facility at Block E, which will be renamed Mayo Clinic Square... In addition to placement on the team's jerseys, Mayo's logo also will appear prominently on the Target Center court and on other signage in and around the arena.
Reminds me of golf, where the players' headwear always has several logos (and the players are contracturally required to leave their caps on during some media interviews), and there are more corporate logos on the shirts.

The latest advertising innovation in the golf world is mind-boggling:
"They gave John Daly a golf bag that hardly anyone could imagine possible. It has a built in flat-screen television monitor which rotates ads across it while he plays. It works a lot like a much smaller and portable digital billboard..."
Joe Kirkpatrick, founder of Pro Bag Ads, went into specifics about the bags and had this to say about them: 
"Each ad is displayed on an HD Sun-Readable screen for 10 seconds, rotating through a catalog of 20 paid ad spots. For a 7-hour day, each ad will be shown no less than 130 times. During a tournament week, the player’s golf bag will be on display at the golf course for at least 4 days, including practice and tournament play, and an additional 2 days once the player makes the cut. That results in at least 520 impressions for a 4-day week, and up to 910 impressions for a 6-day week!"
But of course, no sport out-logos NASCAR...

Personally, I'm sick and tired of the whole process.  In all sports.  Which aren't really "sports" anymore - just another form of entertainment to deliver advertising.

Golf photo cropped for size from original here.  NASCAR photo credit.

29 September 2015

Getting dad in the family photo

Via the Pics subReddit.

Reusable sanitary pads and Mooncups - updated

From an article in The Telegraph:
I’m holding a soft piece of fleecy fabric, mottled dark purple with poppers at the bottom.

"This is the minky,” says Heather Finlay. “You can see how soft it is.”

She’s right. It’s so comforting and tactile I want to rub it against my face. But actually, it’s for the other end of my body.

Welcome to the world of the cloth sanitary pad – or CSP.  Cloth pads, as the name suggests, are manufactured from natural, absorbent fabrics such as cotton and bamboo. More significantly, they are washable - and therefore reusable.

Most are brightly patterned, to keep staining to a minimum. Once worn, they are simply rinsed in cold water, and then popped in the wash ready for next time...

Caring for young children removes any squeamishness around bodily functions. Having dealt with the torrent of poo, wee and vomit that is a new born, a bit of menstrual blood doesn’t seem so bad.
And the perks are numerous. The environmental benefits speak for themselves - then there’s the cost. No tampon tax for starters.  “Surveys estimate that menstruating costs women around £18,000 over their lifetime,” says Finlay. “Switching to reusables you can save around £8,400”. 
More at the link.   There is a separate Telegraph article for those interested in Mooncups.

A tip of the blogging hat to reader -T, who offered this comment:
One of my girlfriends and her aunt make these for girls in developing countries that have to miss school due to their periods. Here is the site to do this if anyone is interested.
From -T's link:
Lack of access to menstrual products affects millions of girls in the developing world. As many as 10% of school-aged girls miss school because of it. The effect of these missed days is devastating, with girls missing up to 20% of their education, thereby increasing the likelihood of dropping out, earlier marriage and pregnancy as well as limiting career options.

The solution is simple: provide school girls with washable menstrual pads and underwear that will last for years. Providing reusable products means the burden of purchasing products each month is removed and the environmental devastation that hundreds of thousands of disposable pads would have on the landscape is alleviated. The case for girl's education is well documented as one of the most important tools for development. We believe that no one should have to miss out on opportunities that will affect their future, simply because they have a period.

Since its inception, in partnership with dozens of groups, individuals, and NGOs, Lunapads has helped provide over 14,000 girls and women in 17 nations with over 85,000 menstrual pads and/or menstrual underwear, giving them an immediate, essential and sustainable means to remain in school or at work. 
Also see the other relevant comments in the section below.

28 September 2015


Several days ago I went for a "butterfly hike" in a rural part of south-central Wisconsin.  Nearby was a very old but well-tended graveyard, where my attention was drawn to several of the monuments.

The one at top, Henry Teel, was born in 1787.  Prescott T. Brigham, in the bottom photo, was born in 1780.

They died in 1856 and 1862, respectively.  Wisconsin had only become a state in 1848.

I returned to my butterflying, but while hiking did a lot of thinking about what their lives must have been like.

"Library dustbin"

"A student empties a trash can next to a murky stream near a school in Kenya’s Kibera slums in Nairobi." 
Posted as a reminder that there is no "away."

Noor Khamis/Reuters, via The Washington Post.

Should America be "more like Switzerland" ??

"Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is tied to the fact that it does not have a standing army so virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia where they receive comprehensive weapons training. Since they are a militia, they keep their government issued weapons (without ammunition) at home. Therefore, many of the guns in Swiss homes were issued to them by the government and most Swiss gun owners are highly trained in gun safety...

And with a law worthy of Orwell’s worst nightmare, every gun in Switzerland is registered by the

Unless those two laughing women on the bicycles are transporting those weapons to a gun show or are members of the militia reporting for duty (in which cases the guns must not be loaded) or they are security personnel licensed to guard Roger Federer, they are probably breaking the law. “Open carry,” as we understand it in the United States, is only allowed in those very limited circumstances...

You can see that the Swiss militia inculcates the idea of gun ownership as a responsibility to protect the nation while to the American gun proliferation advocates, the reason for the 2nd Amendment is to protect the citizens from the government."
A tip of the blogging hat to reader Dominique, who forwarded me an article reporting that Switzerland has the highest rate of gun-related suicide in Europe:
“In Switzerland, firearms are like pesticides in developing countries. They are accessible,” Ajdacic-Gross explained. “Many suicides are impulsive. In other words, the decision is taken very quickly.”

At such moments, availability – or a lack of it – is crucial. “If somebody has to make a lot of effort to find something that will kill them, that’s a strong preventative factor.” 

"Warning: do not look into the eyes"

An art installation by Norwegian artist Erik Pirolt.

Remember when "America was great" ?

An article in The Atlantic reminds us of conditions in the 1950s...
Everyone agrees that the midcentury boom times began after Allied soldiers returned in triumph from World War II...

In 1950, America led the world in GDP per capita. Even by 1973, it had only sunk to number two. Jobs were so plentiful that male employment peaked at over 84 percent. Unemployment, when it did strike, didn’t last long. Housing was cheap. Gas was cheap. Movies were cheap. If America was ever “great,” it was great in 1950, and one can sympathize with a desire to recreate those economic conditions, if not the social ones.
And those economic conditions were achieved in a period of strong labor unions, high taxes, and Big Government...

24 September 2015

The 3n+1 conjecture

Take any whole positive number.

If it is an even number, divide it by 2.

If it is an odd number, multiply it by 3 and add 1.

Repeat whichever above step applies, over and over again.

The end result will always be the number 1.

For example:  7, 22, 11, 34, 17, 52, 26, 13, 40, 20, 10, 5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1.

The graph at the top shows the resulting sequence generated when starting with the number 27, with these intermediate steps:
27, 82, 41, 124, 62, 31, 94, 47, 142, 71, 214, 107, 322, 161, 484, 242, 121, 364, 182, 91, 274, 137, 412, 206, 103, 310, 155, 466, 233, 700, 350, 175, 526, 263, 790, 395, 1186, 593, 1780, 890, 445, 1336, 668, 334, 167, 502, 251, 754, 377, 1132, 566, 283, 850, 425, 1276, 638, 319, 958, 479, 1438, 719, 2158, 1079, 3238, 1619, 4858, 2429, 7288, 3644, 1822, 911, 2734, 1367, 4102, 2051, 6154, 3077, 9232, 4616, 2308, 1154, 577, 1732, 866, 433, 1300, 650, 325, 976, 488, 244, 122, 61, 184, 92, 46, 23, 70, 35, 106, 53, 160, 80, 40, 20, 10, 5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1

Nobody understand why this happensThe conjecture has been checked by computer for all starting values up to 264.  More at the Wikipedia entry.

A sign of our times...

This circular was distributed in our neighborhood yesterday.

When I was his age, a baseball could only go as far as you could hit it, and if you lost a Frisbee, you knew which neighbor's roof it was on.

23 September 2015

Honoring The Presurfer and Everlasting Blört

All of the items I'm posting today are reposts, and all contain material I originally harvested from either The Presurfer or the Everlasting Blört.  

Both Gerald Vlemmings and Madame Jujujive began their ventures on September 24, 2000, so tomorrow marks their 15th blogiversaries.  That's a remarkable accomplishment in a cyberworld where the average blog lasts just a few months and a majority of even the best ones only a few years.

For me, blogging has been a learn-as-you-go-along experience, and these two blogs were among my early teachers.  Please give them a visit on Thursday to help them celebrate their achievement.

The world's tallest cow

"Blosom," a Holstein in Illinois, was 6'4" from hoof to withers. 

Posted in memory of my maternal grandfather, Knut Olaus Finseth, who was president of his local Holstein-Friesian association in Minnesota and who drew maps of his cows' spot patterns in case they wandered from the farm.  That wouldn't have been necessary with this remarkable cow.

Via Gerard Vlemmings' classic blog, The Presurfer.

Video of Palestine in 1896

An excerpt from "Palestine: Story of a Land", by Simone Bitton.  This footage was taken by the Lumiere brothers in 1896; the voiceover and audio effects are modern additions.

A hat tip to Gerard Vlemmings, who found this and posted it at The Presurfer.

"Pageant child"

The dialogue in this news clip about the "toddlers and tiaras" trend is predictable, banal, and not very informative to the extent that I wound up muting it.  But the behavior of the child is interesting.  Perhaps she's just a normal five-year-old girl acting up when she sees a camera or monitor.  Or maybe she's been in a few too many pageants...

Via Everlasting Blort.

The reasons you have eyelashes

I had always assumed that eyelashes evolved simply to keep particulate matter out of the eyes. Now a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface reports that particulates are only half the story; eyelashes also divert airflow to prevent drying of the eyes.
Through anatomical measurements, we find that 22 species of mammals possess eyelashes of a length one-third the eye width. Wind tunnel experiments confirm that this optimal eyelash length reduces both deposition of airborne particles and evaporation of the tear film by a factor of two. Using scaling theory, we find this optimum arises because of the incoming flow's interactions with both the eye and eyelashes.
And this bit from the introduction was an interesting TYWK:
One study found that growth of eyelashes occurs in response to exposure to allergens. Children with allergies have 10% longer and denser lashes than those without allergies. This response arises from allergens triggering mast cells within the inside of the eyelid to release prostaglandins that promote hair growth, which presumably protects the eye.
More at the link, with additional discussion at the L.A. Times, via The Presurfer.

Previously on TYWKIWDBI:
Poliosis, and
Elizabeth Taylor's distichiasis (top photo).

Koen Hauser photography

I love photos of libraries. The other two I've included to lure you to the photographer's website, where there is an eclectic mix of photographs.

Via Everlasting Blort, via Presurfer.

A fox hunting in winter

Everyone has probably seen still photos of this phenomenon, but the video is stunning. To see the vertical descent achieved by the leaping fox is truly jaw-dropping.

Via Presurfer.  Reposted from 2009 because it's still awesome.

22 September 2015

Congratulations, Pensioner

Today I'm going to take a few moments to recognize a remarkable achievement by a member of my extended family.

In early April of this year Pensioner (his "trail name") arrived at the California/Mexico border to begin a hike northbound on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail... is a long-distance hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges... The trail's southern terminus is on the U.S. border with Mexico, just south of Campo, California and its northern terminus on the U.S.–Canada border on the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia; its corridor through the U.S. is in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington.

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,663 mi (4,286 km) long and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada. The route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.
Pensioner was celebrating his retirement as a Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the University of California system.  But his decision to hike the trail was not a spontaneous whim (as suggested for Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"); he had planned this venture for about ten years, learning about equipment and food and techniques and training on shorter segments of the trail:
"I decided to follow the very specific training advice of Ray Jardine (a founding father of the ultralightweight backpacking movement and author of Beyond Backpacking and the PCT Hiker's Handbook). In January, February and March I've hiked a total of about 450 miles, with mileage and percentage of hikes with a pack both increasing each month. Pack weights have ranged from 18 to 28 pounds, and this last month 90% of my hikes were with a pack..."
Pensioner departed from the southern terminus on April 3:

"For those attempting a NOBO thru-hike there is a fairly narrow range of times for starting at the southern terminus. Getting to the southern end of the Sierra Nevada mountains (about mile 700 on the PCT) in mid-June is the goal in a typical snow year. Arriving earlier usually means hiking in heavy snow and arriving much later risks not getting through the Cascade Mountains in Northern Washington before Winter sets in."
The above excerpts are from Pensioner's daily journal at Postholer.  He was fortunate in selecting a year when the snowpack in the Sierras was at record lows, and doubly fortunate in not encountering any of the forest fires which plagued the California, Oregon, and Washington mountain ranges this summer.

The sequence of icons on the map at the top of this post represent the points at which he triggered his SPOT 3 device to generate a signal that could be picked up by satellite to denote his location (for security as well as for documentary purposes).

A successful venture of this magnitude requires enormous amounts of planning, especially in terms of restocking food and water.  Pensioner was hiking alone and had to carry extra water for the traverses of the Southern California desert segments.  For shelter he got by mostly with a simple tarp, often "cowboy camping" in the open.

Through-hiking the trail (i.e. completing the distance in one summer) represents a remarkable feat of endurance, both physical and mental.  Fewer than 4000 people have successfully through-hiked the PCT (compared to 7,000 who have summited Everest).

On September 21 Pensioner reported that he had succesfully reached the northern terminus at the Washington/Canadian border, giving the "thumbs up" gesture in this photo -

He briefly celebrated with some of the good friends he had acquired during the hike, and then perhaps channelling a bit of Forrest Gump, continued on northward in a "contemplative mood and at a leisurely pace" another 8.8 miles to Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia.

Sincere congratulations.  I look forward to hearing more details and seeing more photos at some future family reunion.

"Lolita fashion" explained

 It can be "sweet," "classic," "old school," or Goth - and it's not about underage sex.

The video presents a very positive affirmation of the subculture, and there is additional information at the Wikipedia entry.

Via Madame Jujujive's always-interesting Everlasting Blort.

20 September 2015


A gif of a remarkable jump by a dog.

For Blade Runner fans - an interesting article with still photos and brief videos.

If you've never listened to Radiolab, try opening this podcast in another window and playing it while you continue browsing.

A critique of collegiate football.  "When we cheer for our schools and our teams, we’re also supporting a powerful and autonomous entertainment business that monetizes every aspect of the game, an operation that is not only divorced from the mission of higher education but that often undermines it."

The world's oldest "message in a bottle."   A recently-found one was thrown into the ocean over a hundred years ago as part of a research project.

A German man died after eating courgette stew.  "Cucurbitacins can be recognised by their bitter taste. Any courgette that has a strong unpleasant smell or tastes particularly bitter should be avoided.
Cucurbitacins are toxic at high levels, but they are so bitter that it is almost impossible for anyone to eat sufficient quantities of the toxins to cause significant harm."

Feelthebern.org is the official website detailing Bernie Sanders' stand on important issues.   And this site compares the stands of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

An English professor  writes about the "trigger warning myth."

Deadspin offers a scathing, acerbic commentary on the most recent Republican "debate" (trigger warning: political diatribe).

The oldest-known living orca is 103 years old.  "Granny doesn't simply represent an impressive feat of nature; she embodies what's wrong with SeaWorld by being a living example of what's right in the wild."

Thousands of Germans were massacred after WWII ended.

A recent figure shows 442 people running for President of the United States.

Selfies result in more teenagers with head lice.  “Teenagers don’t usually get lice because they’re not sharing hats and things like that. And lice can’t jump, so the only way they can transmit lice is touching their heads together, and that’s happening with all these photos.”

A National Geographic video explains how rats are able to get into your toilet from the sewer system.

A Presurfer post notes that a group of raccoons is called a "gaze of raccoons."  Here are some other collective nouns (I've heard them referred to as "venereal nouns", but I'm not sure that's correct).

Why state laws should penalize people for negligent storage of guns.

"There was outrage this month when some of the country’s best known restaurant chains including Pizza Express, Strada, Zizzi, Ask Italian and Giraffe were accused of keeping all or part of the service charges automatically added to bills rather than passing them on to staff... It emerged last week that high street restaurants were routinely holding back tips which customers had thought were heading straight into the pockets of waiters and waitresses..."

The Atlantic has an essay entitled "The Life and Death of the American Lawn."

Counterarguments, with Biblical citations, relevant to the Kentucky clerk/marriage license brouhaha.

Proof that a man can prepare a delicious meal even when his wife is out of town.

"...experts say most people engage in self-injury as a way to cope with their emotions, particularly negative ones. And most self-injurers report that it works – it calms them and brings a sense of relief.
These soothing feelings most likely result from the release of endorphins, brain chemicals that relieve pain and can produce euphoria."   Discussed here.

This article will be of interest to (and probably only to) anyone who has played video poker in a casino.  It's about beating the system.

The NFL's love affair with the military.

"A woman who tried to kill her husband by spiking his Christmas cherry Lambrini was caught after she misspelled a fake suicide note which claimed he wanted to "die with dignaty"."

Der Spiegel reports that young activists are disappearing in Egypt.

gif of a beluga intentionally spraying a child with water.

The danger of the use of liquid nitrogen in nightclubs.

"Hillary Clinton campaign puts the 'moron' into oxymoron."

The embedded photos for this linkdump depict the Governor's Mansions in the states of (top-to-bottom) Minnesota, South Dakota, Oregon, New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Iowa, harvested from a gallery of all the mansions at imgur, via Neatorama.

18 September 2015

I wasn't hungry anyway...

Cropped for size from the via at Miss Cellania.

Monarch chrysalis

This has been described as the result of an "escaped classroom caterpillar."  I'm quite certain the situation was artificially created by placing the book over the caterpillar's enclosure, then returning it to the shelf - but it's still a clever result.

Via imgur.

40 brief essays about possible "afterlives"

"In the afterlife you are judged not against other people, but against yourself. Specifically, you are judged against what you could have been. So the afterworld is much like the present world, but it now includes all the yous that could have been. In an elevator you might meet more successful versions of yourself, perhaps the you that chose to leave your hometown three years earlier, or the you who happened to board an airplane next to a company president who then hired you. As you meet these yous, you experience a pride of the sort you feel for a successful cousin: although the accomplishments don't directly belong to you, it somehow feels close.

But soon you fall victim to intimidation. These yous are not really you, they are better than you. They made smarter choices, worked harder, invested the extra effort into pushing on closed doors. These doors eventually broke open for them and allowed their lives to splash out in colorful new directions. Such success cannot be explained away by a better genetic hand; instead, they played your cards better. In their parallel lives, they made better decisions, avoided moral lapses, did not give up on love so easily. They worked harder than you did to correct t heir mistakes and apologized more often.

Eventually you cannot stand hanging around these better yous. You discover you've never felt more competitive with anyone in your life.

You try to mingle with the lesser yous, but it doesn't assuage the sting. In truth, you have little sympathy for these less significant yous and more than a little haughtiness about their indolence. "If you had quit watching TV and gotten off the couch you wouldn't be in this situation," you tell them, when you bother to interact with them at all.

But the better yous are always in your face in the afterlife. In the bookstore you'll see one of them arm in arm with the affectionate woman whom you let slip away. Another you is browsing the shelves, running his fingers over the book he actually finished writing. And look at this one jogging past outside: he's got a much better body than yours, thanks to a consistency at the gym that you never kept up.

Eventually you sink into a defensive posture, seeking reasons why you would not want to be so well behaved and virtuous in any case. You grudgingly befriend some of the lesser yous and go drinking with them. Even at the bar you see the better yous, buying rounds for their friends, celebrating their latest good choice.

And thus your punishment is cleverly and automatically regulated in the afterlife: the more you fall short of your potential, the more of these annoying selves you are forced to deal with."
The above is "Subjunctive", one of the mutually-exclusive alternative afterlives postulated by David Eagleman in his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives.

World record for skipping a stone over water

The Wikipedia entry has a list of the terms for this pastime around the world:  "ducks and drakes" (Britain), "throwing a sandwich" (Finnish), "cutting water" (Japanese), "little fish" (Portuguese), and  especially "frogs" (many cultures).

An introduction to "ransomware"

Excerpts from an article at Wired:
Ransomware is malware that locks your keyboard or computer to prevent you from accessing your data until you pay a ransom, usually demanded in Bitcoin. The digital extortion racket is not new—it’s been around since about 2005, but attackers have greatly improved on the scheme with the development of ransom cryptware, which encrypts your files using a private key that only the attacker possesses, instead of simply locking your keyboard or computer. And these days ransomware doesn’t just affect desktop machines or laptops; it also targets mobile phones...

Symantec has estimated, conservatively, that at least $5 million is extorted from ransomware victims each year. But forking over funds to pay the ransom doesn’t guarantee attackers will be true to their word and victims will be able to access their data again. In many cases, Symantec notes, this doesn’t occur....

One ransomware attack known as Reveton that is directed at US victims produces a pop-up message saying your machine has been involved in child porn activity or some other crime and has been locked by the FBI or Justice Department. Unless you pay a fine—in Bitcoin, of course, and sent to an address the attackers control—the government won’t restore access to your system...

CryptoWall can not only encrypt files on the victim’s computer but also any external or shared drives that connect to the computer. And the shakedown demand can range anywhere from $200 to $5,000...

TorrentLocker harvests email addresses from a victim’s mail client to spam itself to other victims. Fox-IT calculated at one point that TorrentLocker had amassed some 2.6 million email addresses in this manner.

Protecting against ransomware can be difficult since attackers actively alter their programs to defeat anti-virus detection. However, antivirus is still one of the best methods to protect yourself against known ransomware in the wild. It might not be possible to completely eliminate your risk of becoming a victim of ransomware, but you can lessen the pain of being a victim by doing regular backups of your data and storing it on a device that isn’t online.
More at the link.  The TL;DR seems to be in the last sentence - it may be cheaper to throw out and replace your computer than to pay the ransom.

15 September 2015

Teaser trailer for the new Jungle Book movie

Hornussen ("Swiss golf")

The earliest reference to Hornuss is found in the records of 1625 of the consistory of Lauperswil, canton Berne, in a complaint about the breaking of the Sabbath. Two men were fined the then princely sum of 20 francs for playing Hornussen on Sunday.

A "mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey"

That's one description of Skunk:
Imagine being soaked, head to toe, in a frothy mix of pureed compost, gangrenous human flesh, and road kill, and you might get some idea of what it’s like to be sprayed with Skunk, according to those who’ve had the misfortune of being doused.

Police departments in the United States have reportedly begun purchasing the spray, a non-lethal riot-control weapon concocted by an Israeli firm for use against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. The sticky fluid, which Palestinians say smells like a “mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey,” is usually fired from armored vehicles equipped using high-pressure water cannons.

Mistral Security, a firm based in Bethesda, Maryland, markets Skunk to U.S. police and military as a crowd-control tool capable of “rapidly and effectively” dispersing unruly crowds. Recommended applications include “border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins.”

Mistral Security offers a number of delivery systems for Skunk, according to the company’s website, including 60 ounce canisters with a range of 40 feet; a “skid sprayer” equipped with a 50 gallon tank and a 5 hp motor that can shoot over 60 feet at up to 7 gallons per minute; and a 40mm grenade that can fired by a 12-gauge shotgun.

5 MB hard drive (1956)

Via the OldSchoolCool subreddit.

"Please use your considerable intelligence to review this material"

A letter from California governor Jerry Brown to presidential candidate Ben Carson.

It only takes about 9 hours...

Via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk.

12 September 2015

Introducing Jeremy Corbyn - updated

Few American voters may yet have heard of Jeremy Corbyn, the previously obscure British parliamentarian who is poised to become leader of the official Labour opposition to David Cameron’s government. But if they have been following the US presidential race, they may already understand the general idea.

Slap a beard on leftwing Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and make him as casual as a Romantic poet and you have a good approximation of the elderly radical across the Atlantic who is shaking the fragile pillars of the British establishment and could (at least in theory) become Queen Elizabeth’s next prime minister of the not-so United Kingdom...

To the amazement of pundits and politicians alike, Corbyn’s campaign took off in July much as Sanders’s own has done for the Democratic nomination. Despite being unfashionable democratic socialists, both men tapped a deep well of resentment against the mainstream political elite by people who feel patronised, neglected and left behind
The article from The Guardian excerpted above goes on to mention populist uprisings in France and Greece. There is also an analysis of Corbyn's rise at Salon.
Britain’s Labour Party is going through its own Bernie Sanders moment – except that it’s more like a Bernie Sanders moment on steroids and set to warp drive...

A longtime member of Parliament from North London who appears not to own a tie, Corbyn has spent his entire political career as a rebellious Labour “backbencher” – that is, he has never been part of the party leadership, nor held a government post when Labour had a majority...

 Like Sanders, Corbyn has long advocated for a rejection of austerity politics and a return to seemingly outmoded policies of ambitious social spending, government activism and higher taxes on big business and the rich. He has proposed universal childcare and free higher education for all, wants to renationalize Britain’s railroads and utilities, and believes the country should withdraw from NATO, scrap its nuclear missiles and invest most of its military budget in job programs...

If no one finds Corbyn’s politics so amusing anymore, there is an element of comedy in the Armageddon that Labour’s centrist establishment may have called down upon itself. In the interest of greater transparency and democracy, the party opened this year’s leadership election to anyone who registered online as a party supporter and pay a minimal fee – and the apparent result is a whole lot more democracy than they wanted. Ballots started going out this weekend to 610,000 or so Labour members and supporters – more than half of whom signed up during the current campaign and are highly likely to be Corbyn voters. Labour’s leadership underestimated the public appetite for candidates and ideas that lie outside the safe zone of neoliberal consensus politics, and is now likely to reap the whirlwind. It’s a lesson that will not be lost on political leadership castes around the world.
And  here's a related op-ed piece in The Spectator.

I would welcome informed opinion from some of the many TYWKIWDBI readers in the UK and EU.

Updated September 11:  Corbyn elected in victory of landslide proportions -

More details at The Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, The Observer, The Times, and other British and European publications.  It might even be mentioned briefly in some American ones.

Addendum:  The Guardian has a succinct summary of Corbyn's beliefs and policy proposals:
On the economy 

Corbyn is opposed to austerity and plans to bring down the deficit by growing the economy and taxing the wealthy instead.

He intends to introduce a “people’s quantitative easing”, which would allow the Bank of England to print money to invest in large-scale housing, energy, transport and digital projects, partly through a national investment bank.

 Corbyn says he will fund this by reducing the “tax gap” and ending corporate tax reliefs.

On tax 

Corbyn says there is £20bn in tax debt uncollected by HMRC every year and another £20bn in tax avoidance and a further £80bn in tax evasion that needs to be addressed.

On education

Corbyn has proposed a National Education Service, which he says would be “every bit as vital and as free at the point of use as our NHS”. The service would begin with universal childcare, give more power to local authorities, rethink the role of free schools and academies, introduce a minimum wage for apprentices and put more money into adult learning...
Continued at length at the link.

11 September 2015


 I believe I counted NINE words.  Did I miss any?

Fun at the beach

Via imgur.

"Crown shyness" explained

I recently encountered the term "crown shyness."
Crown shyness is a phenomenon observed in some tree species, in which the crowns of fully stocked trees do not touch each other, forming a canopy with channel-like gaps. It is also known as canopy disengagement, canopy shyness, or intercrown spacing.
The term was new to me, but the concept was not; it's quite readily observable by anyone who spends a significant amount of time in the woods.  What did surprise me was the notion that the cause of this phenomenon is unknown; I had always assumed it was a manifestation of contact inhibition of growth. Apparently it's not so simple.

Photo credit.

Hans Rosling chastises the media

Related: Hans Rosling clarifies world demographics.

Ozymandias and the trashing of Palmyra

Shelley's classic poem has occasionally been cited in news reports about ISIS' destruction of archaeological sites in Syria, implying that the ravages of time inevitably bring about the downfall and destruction of even the mightiest kingdoms and their symbols.

First, some background on the poem -
In antiquity, Ozymandias was a Greek name for the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II. Shelley began writing his poem in 1817, soon after the announcement of the British Museum's acquisition of a large fragment of a statue of Ramesses II from the thirteenth century BC, and some scholars believe that Shelley was inspired by this... Shelley wrote the poem in friendly competition with his friend and fellow poet Horace Smith, who also wrote a sonnet on the same topic with the very same title... Both poems explore the fate of history and the ravages of time—that all prominent figures and the empires they build are impermanent and their legacies fated to decay and oblivion.
Here's the poem -
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Now, some salient commentary from an op-ed piece in The Atlantic -
If the ruined ruins of Palmyra could speak, they would marvel at our shock. After all, they have been sacked before. In their mute and shattered eloquence, they spoke for centuries not only about the cultures that built them but also about the cultures that destroyed them—about the fragility of civilization itself, even when it is incarnated in stone. No designation of sanctity, by God or by UNESCO, suffices to protect the past. The past is helpless...

"...Wherever I cast my glance, the objects surrounding me announce death and compel my resignation to what awaits me. What is my ephemeral existence in comparison with that of a rock being worn down, of a valley being formed, of a forest that’s dying, of these deteriorating masses suspended above my head? I see the marble of tombs crumble into powder and I don’t want to die!”...

Yet as the world contemplates the destruction of Palmyra—I mean its destruction in our day, on our watch—we must resist the customary romanticism. It induces an aesthetic passivity, which would go too nicely with the West’s political passivity...

There was nothing metaphysical or inevitable about the recent detonation of the Temple of Baalshamin and the Temple of Bel. ISIS was not acting as the agent of time. It was acting as the agent of its savage ambitions. What was done in Palmyra was a crime. The crime was committed in particular circumstances and for particular ideas—in geopolitical and ideological contexts...

Palmyra, in its heyday during the first three centuries of the Common Era, was one of the ancient capitals of what scholars call syncretism and the rest of us call pluralism. It was a Middle Eastern destination on the Silk Road, a caravan city raised on an oasis in the Tadmurean desert that was situated on an important trade route. Its architectural and epigraphic remains portray a motley city formed in its character by Rome to the west and Persia to the east; Hellenistic and Central Asian influences mingled with Amorite, Aramaean, and Arab elements. In Palmyra one could find Greek sculpture and Chinese silk...
More at the link.

08 September 2015

Halfpipe of the gods

Since we've just mentioned snowboarding, I offer this photo of "High Cup Nick" in the Pennines, found at the EarthPorn subreddit.


Posted for the word more than for the music.  The Digg post was entitled "Tina S Continues To Be The Shred Queen Of YouTube With Her Cover Of 'Altitude'."

So I had to look up "shred."

Urban Dictionary, in its usual semi-helpful way defines it as "technically and rhythmatically [sic] hammering out amazing and lightning-fast solos on a guitar. 2. To play so amazingly fast on guitar you almost destroy it's strings."

During my search I found the word used more often with regard to snowboarding than to music.  And the 'net in its infinite variety offered up a snowboarding dictionary, where "to shred" is "to tear up the terrain" or "to carve with intensity."

For the etymology of the stem word I turned to Wiktionary:
From Old English screade (from which also screed), cognate with German Schrot ‎(“small shot”), Swedish skrot, Old Norse skrydda ‎(“shrivelled skin”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kreu ‎(“cutting tool”), extended form of *(s)ker- ‎(“to cut”). 
(I find it interesting that screed is related).  Wiktionary goes on to define the snowboarding "shred" in terms of "aggressiveness" and the music "shred" in terms of speed.

Now I open it up to readers to come up with the appropriate nuances and contexts for the use of the word.  Also - is she that good? or is the "shred queen" appelation just hype?

04 September 2015

Clever anagrams

Dormitory = Dirty room
Evangelist = Evil's agent
Desperation = A rope ends it
The Morse Code = Here come dots
Mother-in-law = Woman Hitler
Snooze alarms = Alas! No more Z's.
Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one
Clint Eastwood = Old West action
Slot machines = Cash lost in 'em
Conversation = Voices rant on
Norwegians = Swen or Inga?
The piano bench = Beneath Chopin
Southern California = Hot sun or life in a car

Found in Word Nerd, by John D. Williams, Jr.

03 September 2015

Egypt, 1958

A two-minute excerpt from a speech by Gamal Abdel Nasser in which he comments on (mocks) the Muslim Brotherhood regarding head coverings for women.  Note the genuine laughter from the audience.

How times have changed.

Some background:
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (1918 – 1970) was the second President of Egypt, serving from 1956 until his death. A leader of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 against the monarchy, he introduced neutralist foreign policies during the Cold War, co-founding the international Non-Aligned Movement...

Nasser led the 1952 overthrow of the monarchy and introduced far-reaching land reforms the following year. Following a 1954 Muslim Brotherhood-led attempt on his life, he cracked down on the organization, put President Muhammad Naguib under house arrest, and assumed executive office, officially becoming president in June 1956...

Calls for pan-Arab unity under his leadership increased, culminating with the formation of the United Arab Republic with Syria (1958–1961). In 1962, Nasser began a series of major socialist measures and modernization reforms in Egypt...

Following Egypt's concessions to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Nasser resigned, but he returned to office after popular demonstrations called for his reinstatement...

After the conclusion of the 1970 Arab League summit, Nasser suffered a heart attack and died.


An explanation of why%20urls%20are%20so%20weird.
"An East Texas man ended up in the hospital after he fired a gun at an armadillo and the bullet bounced off the animal’s back and hit the man in his face..."

A grim report on the abysmal quality of water that Olympic athletes in Rio will encounter.

Bullfighting in Colombia is on a downward spiral.  "...although cities such as Manizales can pack the house, nationally the industry cannot support itself."

Video of a transporter bridge.

"Scatt, clad in a white hard hat, bright orange t-shirt, and sturdy pants, is one of a dozen interns who have been chosen to spend the bulk of their summer learning how to spruce up mausoleums, monuments, and headstones at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Recruited from trade schools, colleges, and social programs around the city, they are the first participants in the cemetery's Preservation Training Program, created in partnership with the World Monuments Fund. The 12 interns will receive nine weeks of training in the art of stonework restoration. "

An infographic about doughnuts.

Video of ISIS plundering an archaeological site.

A skier falls into a deep crevasse.

A table, probably in a pub, with a most unusual and creative design, crafted by Joe & Joni Rocco.

Cities can help put an end to puppy mills by mandating that pet stores can only sell rescue animals.

Remembering Frances Oldham Kelsey, the FDA scientist who kept thalidomide out of the United States.  "For a critical 19-month period, she fastidiously blocked its approval while drug company officials maligned her as a bureaucratic nitpicker."

A man in Washington, D.C. converted his storage unit into an apartment that he can rent out.  The Washington Post has an impressive gallery of photos.

Police in Bangladesh killed six tiger poachers.

Fortune magazine sees the imminent end of the cellphone contract era.

A $30 device will hack your car's electronics and unlock it.  "Kamkar’s device was used to successfully unlock cars made by Nissan, Cadillac, Ford, Toyota, Lotus, Volkswagen and Chrysler, and it also worked perfectly with a number of garage door openers, potentially giving the user access to a target’s home."

"According to the Defense Department’s annual “Base Structure Report” for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702
overseas bases in about 130 countries and has another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories."

Commentary and analysis of how/why Bernie Sanders is drawing huge numbers of people to his rallies.

Why "golf doesn't need the Olympics and the Olympics don't need golf."

Thoughts about Michelle Bachmann's belief in the imminent arrival of Biblical "end times" and its influence on her view of American foreign policy.

You have no time for this, but you will probably watch it all the way to the end anyway.

"Katie and her friends, it turns out, are guests at Camp Sundown, a charitable organization based in nearby Poughkeepsie. Run by Katie's parents, Dan and Caren Mahar, the summer camp brings together dozens of kids who suffer from xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder that renders sufferers unable to tolerate ultraviolet light."   What a marvelous idea.  (Here's a link to the camp's website.)

Positions taken by the Republican presidential candidates on the subject of torture.

Little girl likes her grandpa better than her grandma.

More than you need to know about trucks on the highway transporting liquid aluminum.

"Always keep a safety pin on your key ring so you can fasten your keys to the inside of your pocket when you're worried about losing them (running, rollercoasters, etc.)"

A tattoo with black henna can cause painful and permanent scarring.

One person's list of the 100 best novels written in English.

An Alabama church has opened a gun range.  “This is an opportunity for us to reach out in the name of Jesus Christ in a setting that is completely unique. Even odd by some people’s standards. But who’s to say that church can’t happen right here...”

Gloom and doom scenario for world stock markets.

"The next time an annoying friend or relative attempts to argue that the Civil War was fought over anything other than slavery, here’s the definitive response delivered by Colonel Ty Seidule, a Professor of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point."

Napoleon was NOT SHORT.   "Confusion about his height also results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch—2.71 and 2.54 cm respectively; he was about 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in) tall, which is above average for the period (for example, the average height of an English male was 165 cm.)"

The photos embedded today are of butterfly eggs, found in this gallery.  Credit for all to Jay Cossey.
Top to bottom:  Gulf Fritillary, Red Admiral, Monarch, Red-Spotted Purple, Bronze Copper, Question Mark, Cabbage White, and Giant Swallowtail.
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