30 October 2015

In 1965 this dress shocked a nation

Jean Shrimpton wore this white shift dress to Derby Day in Melbourne in 1965.
In 1965, textile manufacturer DuPont de Nemours International engaged Jean Shrimpton, then the world's highest-paid model, to travel to Australia to be a judge in the 1965 "Fashions on the Field". Her fee for the two-week visit was £2,000, an enormous sum, equivalent to at least a year's wages for the average Australian man. Even The Beatles had been paid only £1,500 for their tour of Australia in 1964.

 It has been said that Shrimpton, more than any other model of the 1960s, can lay claim to having been the world's first supermodel... It was expected that when attending Derby Day, she would be wearing a beautiful hat and accessories, including gloves and stockings, which were de rigueur for the ultra-conservative Melbourne establishment.

The garment Shrimpton and Rolfe developed for Derby Day was a simple white shift dress. However, DuPont had not supplied enough fabric to complete the intended design, so at Shrimpton's suggestion, Rolfe improvised, by finishing the hemline a daring 4 in (10 cm) above the knee. Shrimpton later claimed to have told Rolfe that "nobody's going to take any notice…" She also later told The Australian Women's Weekly magazine "I always wear my day dresses above the knee."

Her skimpy outfit contrasted starkly with the conservative attire of the other racegoers, and she was openly scorned by them, particularly as she was defying protocol by wearing no hat, stockings or gloves. As well as being the target of catcalls from men and jeers from women, she was surrounded by kneeling cameramen, all shooting upwards to make the dress look even shorter.

Conservative Australia was shocked. Former Lady Mayoress of Melbourne, Lady Nathan, accused Shrimpton of being "a child," and even prominent Australian model and columnist Maggie Tabberer was critical. Radio stations and newspapers published editorials for and against the outfit, and Shrimpton defended it. "I don't see what was wrong with the way I looked. I wouldn't have dressed differently for a race meeting anywhere in the world", she was reported as saying at the time.

The controversy quickly spread to Britain, where the press angrily defended Shrimpton.  According to the Australian analysis, Shrimpton's Derby Day appearance was the moment when a global youth culture began to shape young Australians' sense of style.  A reviewer of that analysis has claimed that all the young girls wanted to be like "the Shrimp": free, cool, and elegant." 
Photo credit Ray Cranbournne via the Herald Sun.

"Coywolf" - a new species?

As reported in The Economist:
Like some people who might rather not admit it, wolves faced with a scarcity of potential sexual partners are not beneath lowering their standards. It was desperation of this sort, biologists reckon, that led dwindling wolf populations in southern Ontario to begin, a century or two ago, breeding widely with dogs and coyotes. The clearance of forests for farming, together with the deliberate persecution which wolves often suffer at the hand of man, had made life tough for the species. That same forest clearance, though, both permitted coyotes to spread from their prairie homeland into areas hitherto exclusively lupine, and brought the dogs that accompanied the farmers into the mix.

Interbreeding between animal species usually leads to offspring less vigorous than either parent—if they survive at all. But the combination of wolf, coyote and dog DNA that resulted from this reproductive necessity generated an exception. The consequence has been booming numbers of an extraordinarily fit new animal spreading through the eastern part of North America. Some call this creature the eastern coyote. Others, though, have dubbed it the “coywolf”. Whatever name it goes by, Roland Kays of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, reckons it now numbers in the millions...

He worked out that, though coyote DNA dominates, a tenth of the average coywolf’s genetic material is dog and a quarter is wolf... At 25kg or more, many coywolves have twice the heft of purebred coyotes. With larger jaws, more muscle and faster legs, individual coywolves can take down small deer...

The animal’s range has encompassed America’s entire north-east, urban areas included, for at least a decade, and is continuing to expand in the south-east following coywolves’ arrival there half a century ago... coywolves are now living even in large cities, like Boston, Washington and New York. According to Chris Nagy of the Gotham Coyote Project, which studies them in New York, the Big Apple already has about 20, and numbers are rising...

Some speculate that this adaptability to city life is because coywolves’ dog DNA has made them more tolerant of people and noise, perhaps counteracting the genetic material from wolves—an animal that dislikes humans. And interbreeding may have helped coywolves urbanise in another way, too, by broadening the animals’ diet.... Coywolves eat pumpkins, watermelons and other garden produce, as well as discarded food...

Whether the coywolf actually has evolved into a distinct species is debated...
More at the link, and a discussion thread at Reddit.  Quite interesting.

29 October 2015

A little girl and her horse

Why there is an "R" in "Mrs."

The abbreviation "Mrs." stands for the word "missus," which doesn't have an "R" in it.  So what's up?  Mental Floss explains:
Originally, Mrs. was an abbreviation for mistress, the female counterpart of master. There were various spellings for both forms—it might be maistresse/maistre or maystres/mayster—and variation in pronunciation too. The word mistress had a more general meaning of a woman who is in charge of something. A governess in charge of children was a mistress, as was a woman head of a household. The abbreviated form was used most frequently as a title for a married woman.

Eventually, the title form took on a contracted, 'r'-less pronunciation, and by the end of the 18th century “missis” was the most acceptable way to say it. (A 1791 pronouncing dictionary said that to pronounce it "mistress" would “appear quaint and pedantic.”) The full word mistress had by then come to stand for a paramour, someone who was explicitly not a Mrs.

Sometimes a title is not an abbreviation for a word, but a word all of its own.


She has been caught.
"21-year-old Sara Kanger was booked for possession of meth, flight to avoid arrest, theft by unlawful taking and two counts of theft by receiving."
And btw, the FedEx guy should have had the common sense to hide the box behind the wall. Although it's too bad that such precautions are necessary in this modern world.

U.S. still maintains embargo on Cuba

The entire world opposes the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba. Well, except for the U.S. and Israel.
The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday on a resolution calling on Washington to end its embargo on Cuba. 191 of 193 countries voted for the resolution — 99 percent of the member states.

For the 24th year in a row, the U.S. and its allies were the only nations to vote against the measure. For the 24th year in a row, the U.S. has utterly defied the will of the entire international community.

An embargo of sugar, oil, and weapons was first imposed on Cuba by President Eisenhower in 1960. In 1962, two years later, the Kennedy administration expanded the embargo to impede virtually all imports...

The Obama administration has often tried to differentiate itself from the Bush administration by appealing to rhetoric concerning international law. Yet votes like these prove such statements to be hollow. Behind the veneer of Obama’s emphasis on international rules and norms is the cold logic of empire: The U.S., as the global economic and military hegemon, will do what it wants, when it wants.
Perhaps a reader here can explain to me why this embargo continues to exist.  Presumably it involves corporate $$$$$$$$$.

Addendum.  Here is a succinct and informed explanation provided by reader Con:
The word "embargo" is used by the US government, but in Cuba and other Latin American states it is known (more accurately) as a "blockade". The blockade is in fact illegal under international law as it extends far beyond restricting trade between the US and Cuba, imposing harsh sanctions on those outside of the US who would dare to trade freely with Cuba (i.e. an "extra-territorial" measure). Companies have been fined and had assets expropriated and the legal rights infringed in all manner of ways. Canada even has a law which is aimed to circumvent the application of the relevant US extra-territorial law as it applies to Canada; the "Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act." 
The blockade began during the Cold War and was designed to isolate Cuba and damage its economy, in order to undermine its socialist government and return it to the US sphere of influence. It was initially very successful, with almost every other country in the Americas breaking relations with Cuba, the exceptions being Canada and Mexico. The blockade was aimed not only at the Cuban people, but implicitly at any other Latin American nation which might have opted for socialism.

Cuba survived by trading with the USSR and Eastern European trading bloc (the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, CMEA) and with China. After the collapse of the European socialist bloc, many supporters of the blockade had high hopes that the Cuban revolution would collapse, but instead it weathered the storm, and is now stronger than ever.

Over the decades the blockade has lost more and more ground in the rest of the Americas; and more generally, since the collapse of all the US-backed military regimes which were once so common, the prestige and political and military power of the US throughout the Americas has been eroded dramatically. Now it's the US which is isolated. Cuba has good diplomatic relations now with every other country in the Americas, and is increasingly connected to the wider Latin American economic system, and even, in some ways, a central component of it. Cuba is one of the main forces in the ALBA trading bloc that includes several countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean, and also has good trade links to Brazil. In recent years a submarine fibre optic cable linking Cuba and Jamaica to the South American mainland has broken the telecommunications blockade.

It has reached the point where the Obama administration has recognised the failure of their Cold War policy and are now negotiating an end to it. They have re-established diplomatic relations with the island, but the blockade is the biggest issue which needs to be resolved before relations are fully normalized. The other biggie being the illegal US military occupation of Guantanamo Bay, where they have a naval base, and the infamous prison camp and torture facility.

Darwin Award candidate

"Bravo star and fitness instructor Greg Plitt did NOT die from stumbling on a railroad track Saturday ... he was fatally struck by a train after trying to outrun it ... to prove the effectiveness of an energy drink.

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ ... they have reviewed video of the accident and it shows Plitt standing on the tracks as the train barrels toward him. Shortly before the train reaches Plitt he assumes a runners stance and bolts down the track...

And law enforcement tells us they found multiple energy drink bottles near the track and authorities think Plitt may have been hopped up from the caffeine. We're told he was shooting a commercial for the product."

"Aquafina" bottled water is tap water

And now that will be clarified on the label.  From ABC News:
The label on Aquafina water bottles will soon be changed to spell out that the drink comes from the same source as tap water, the brand's owner PepsiCo said Friday.

A group called Corporate Accountability International has been pressuring bottled water sellers to curb what it calls misleading marketing practices.

Aquafina is the single biggest bottled water brand, and its bottles are now labeled "P.W.S." The new labels will spell out "public water source."
See - there was nothing deceptive there.  Doesn't everybody know that "P.W.S." stands for "public water source"?
Aquafina is a brand of purified bottled water products produced by PepsiCo, consisting of both unflavored and flavored water... It was first distributed in Wichita, Kansas in 1994, before becoming more widely sold across the United States, Spain, Canada, Lebanon, Turkey, the GCC countries, Iran, Egypt, Vietnam, Pakistan and India to compete with The Coca-Cola Company's Dasani and Dr. Pepper Snapple's Deja Blue. As of 2009, Aquafina represented 13.4 percent of domestic bottled water sales in the United States, making it the number 1 bottled water brand as measured by retail sales.

The United States' "Persian rug" stamps

In the nineteenth century, "revenue stamps" were purchased and used to pay taxes on a variety of items and transactions - mortgages, deeds, cigarettes, wine, oleomargarine, life insurance, playing cards, etc.

Concerned about fraudulent cleaning and reuse of such stamps, the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 1871 issued a new set of stamps (the "Second Issue') with elaborately detailed designs and colors and a special paper which incorporated silk fibers.   A most interesting article (pdf) in the American Philatelist offers more details:
The original tax schedule included several open-ended rates, and stamps were created that were, in principle at least, adequate to pay them. For example, a deed for real estate whose value exceeded $20,000 was taxed in multiples of $20 (at $20 for the first $20,000, plus an additional $20 for every additional $10,000 or fractional part thereof ), to be paid by $20 Conveyance stamps. In practice, though, this proved unwieldy. For a property with a $200,000 value, a total of 19 $20 stamps would be required; and for $500,000, 49 stamps.

When the First Issues were replaced by the Second Issues in September and October 1871, the $200 denomination (Scott R132) was retained and a $500 (Scott R133) added, to further facilitate payment of large taxes, on deeds or mortgages for amounts exceeding $500,000, or estates exceeding $1 million. To foil counterfeiters they were printed by a complicated tricolored process, the world’s only engraved tricolored stamps, considered by many as the most beautiful stamps ever printed. The abrupt repeal of the documentary stamp taxes effective October 1, 1872, ensured that these stamps would be as rare as they are beautiful: just 446 $200 stamps were sold, and 210 of the $500.
The article at the link has several awesome photos of multiples of these stamps being used on documents (deed for a silver mine, for example).

Photos for this post are of nonperforated die proof singles for these issues; I found them in The Stamp Collecting Forum.

26 October 2015

"Richard Cory"

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

A poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson, published in 1897 (text via the Poetry Foundation).
Robinson's early struggles led many of his poems to have a dark pessimism and his stories to deal with "an American dream gone awry." His eldest brother, Dean Robinson, was a doctor and had become addicted to laudanum while medicating himself for neuralgia. The middle brother, Herman, a handsome and charismatic man, married the woman Edwin loved, Emma Löehen Shepherd... Herman Robinson suffered business failures, became an alcoholic, and ended up estranged from his wife and children. Herman died impoverished in 1909 of tuberculosis at Boston City Hospital Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" was thought by Emma (Herman's wife) to refer to God and her husband.
Robinson won the Pulitzer Prize three times in the 1920s.

World Chess Championship for Disabled, 2015

Home page for the event held in Dresden, via the Get Motivated subReddit.

Photo credit Jamie Kenmure on Twitter.

Stella Young: "I am not your inspiration"

Stella Young is a comedian and journalist who happens to go about her day in a wheelchair — a fact that doesn't, she'd like to make clear, automatically turn her into a noble inspiration to all humanity. In this very funny talk, Young breaks down society's habit of turning disabled people into "inspiration porn."
Stella Young had osteogenesis imperfecta.  Her biography is here.

"Consider the prison-phone industry" - updated

From an article explaining how the prison system in the United States has been corporatized into profitable ventures:
The profits generated by the corrections economy have not been definitively calculated, and a comprehensive audit would be a staggering accounting task. The figure would have to include the cost of private-prison real estate, mandatory drug testing, electronic monitoring anklets, prison-factory labor, prison-farm labor, prison-phone contracts, and the service fees charged to prisoners’ families when they wire money for supplies from the prison commissary. Contracted commercial activity flows in and out of every city jail, rural prison, suburban probation office, and immigration detention center. For stakeholders in the largest peacetime carceral apparatus in the history of the world, the opportunities for profit add up. For analysts like Sommer, the system also offers a safe, government-secured investment...

Consider the prison-phone industry. For inmates, especially urban felons shipped to far-off rural sites, calls to the outside are a social lifeline and a proven method for reducing recidivism. But here, too, Wall Street has identified a high-demand, low-supply commodity. Other government contractors, be they food suppliers or dentists, collect fees paid out by the state. Prison-phone companies, and the prison-wire-transfer companies that are following their model, extract revenues directly from inmates and their families. (Fifteen dollars for a fifteen-minute phone call is not uncommon.)

As with partnership corrections, profits are largely determined by contracts, but phone and money-transfer companies sweeten the deals for their public partners with profit-sharing perks. These commissions kick back anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of revenue to the contracting government agency. According to a study by Prison Legal News, a publication of the Human Rights Defense Center, about 85 percent of non-federal jails sign up for commission-added contracts, and because commissions increase in proportion to the total contract value, cash-strapped public officials are motivated to choose the most expensive contract available. Prison Legal News found that when Louisiana put out a public request for proposals for phone services in 2001, the agency stated the wish explicitly: “The state desires that the bidder’s compensation percentages . . . be as high as possible.”

Addendum/update:  I posted the above in March of 2015.  Now in October comes a report that the FCC is going to mandate a cap of 11 cents per minute:
The FCC said its vote yesterday "lower[s] the cap to 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons, while providing tiered rates for jails to account for the higher costs of serving jails and smaller institutions."

Part of the problem is that jails and prisons have been charging phone companies big commissions in exchange for exclusive contracts. These commission payments are passed on to prisoners.
The FCC did not outlaw commissions but said that it "strongly encourages parties to move away from site commissions and urges states to take action on this issue." Clyburn said that "states must do their part and take a hard look at their site commission practices and how such payments impact prices, service, and the reverberating impact on the community."

A man's unborn twin fathers his child

A hat tip to Miss C at Neatorama for posting a most interesting story from Buzzfeed.
A couple had a child with fertility assistance, but later found out that the child’s blood type did not match either parent. A paternity test, using cheek swabs, determined that the man was not the father of the baby. The couple had more tests, and was prepared to sue the fertility clinic. Then they did a genetic test through 23andMe, which tests many more markers than a standard paternity test in order to establish genetic ties in extended families. That test said the man was the baby’s uncle!

The explanation is that the man is a genetic chimera. Before he was born, he had a fraternal twin that did not develop into a viable baby. But the vanished twin’s DNA survived by being absorbed into the surviving twin...

However, since the cells of his lost twin brother are a part of him, he is still the father. The case shows how a person cannot be defined by their DNA. About one in eight single-child births start out as multiple pregnancies, so chimerism is probably more common than we know.
Last year I posted a similar article involving a young mother:
In order to qualify for financial assistance in supporting her young family, Fairchild was required to undergo DNA testing to prove that she was the mother of children for whom she was claiming... To her horror, the young mother was informed that she would be the subject of an investigation into possible welfare fraud as the DNA tests had revealed no genetic link between her and the children she claimed were hers...
More information at the links, or type "chimera" in the new search box in the right sidebar to see unusual butterflies, apples, and legendary monsters.

One wonders how many lives have been affected/disrupted by genetic testing that did not take the possibility of chimerism into account - especially paternity cases.

23 October 2015

Trailer for Coen brothers' latest movie

Checking out bedbugs from the library

"...bedbugs have discovered a new way to hitchhike in and out of beds: library books. It turns out that tiny bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books. The bugs crawl out at night to feed, find a new home in a headboard, and soon readers are enjoying not only plot twists but post-bite welts.

As libraries are scrambling to deal with the problem, so are some book borrowers. Not wanting to spread the misery, considerate patrons sometimes call ahead to discuss with librarians how best to return lent materials from their bedbug-infested homes. Usually, a meeting is arranged so the patron can hand off the offending books or DVDs in Ziploc bags to an employee outside the library.

John Furman, the owner of Boot-a-Pest [ed: clever name], a team of bedbug exterminators based on Long Island, said he has had hundreds of clients buy a portable heater called PackTite to kill bedbug life, baking any used or borrowed book as a preventive measure before taking it to bed...

To reassure skittish patrons like Mrs. McAdoo, libraries are training circulation staff members to look for carcasses and live insects... Others vacuum the crevices of couches, and some furniture is being reupholstered with vinyl or leatherette to make it less hospitable to insects...
Lots more information at the New York Times source article, published in 2012.

Unusual shadow

Via the "Creepy" subReddit.

In 1942 it was an honor to be termed a bigot

From Wikipedia:
A BIGOT list (or bigot list) is a list of personnel possessing appropriate security clearance and who are cleared to know details of a particular operation, or other sensitive information.

One common etymology is that BIGOT is a reversal of the codewords "TO GIB", meaning "To Gibraltar". The context of this etymology is the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942: "TO GIB" was stamped on the orders of military and intelligence staff travelling from Britain to North Africa to prepare for the operation. The majority of personnel made a dangerous journey by sea, through areas patrolled by German U-boats, however certain individuals whose contribution to the campaign or whose mission was vital were classified "TOGIB", and were flown to Africa on a safer route via Gibraltar.

Several sources state that BIGOT was a codeword for Operation Overlord, the Western Allies' plan to invade German-occupied western Europe during World War II, and that the term was an acronym for "British Invasion of German Occupied Territory". It is possible that the term, supposedly suggested by Winston Churchill himself, was a "backronym"—a phrase created to fit an acronym such as the existing "To Gibraltar" code.

The list of personnel cleared to know details of Overlord was known as the BIGOT list, and the people on it were known as "Bigots". The details of the invasion plan were so secret, adherence to the list was rigidly enforced. U.S. military advisor George Elsey tells a story in his memoirs about how a junior officer turned away King George VI from the intelligence centre on the USS Ancon, because, as he explained to a superior officer "...nobody told me he was a Bigot."

Although both derivations are of British origin, the term is widely used in the United States intelligence agencies.
Relevant links at the source.  This looks like excellent material for the QI elves on No Such Thing as a Fish.

Immense El Niño is "too big to fail"

The image and the report in the Los Angeles Times was posted several weeks ago.  I'm putting it up now because of the reports of the biggest hurricane in the history of the Western Hemisphere now boiling in the ocean off the western coast of Mexico.

Hurricane Patricia is expected to arrive on the coast with 200-mph winds and a foot of rain, which will effectively scrub the arrival site to the ground as a tornado does.  It is then expected to attentuate over land, heading toward Texas, where many legislators continue to deny the existence of climate change.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Danack, who found this graph showing the degree to which Hurricane Patricia is an outlier compared to all other recorded storms in the Eastern Pacific:

Apparently "commentate" is a verb

During the recent political debates, my wife and I were musing about whether "commentate" was a verb.  "Commentators" are abundant in politics (and in sports), but we thought "commentate" would be a ridiculously elaborate form of "comment" in the way that "to orientate" is misused for the verb "to orient."

But  "commentate" does exist.  The link goes to the online Wiktionary; the hard-copy dictionaries in our house vary in this regard.  Some don't list it, others cite is as "rare."  (I do have the sense that if/when used, "commentate" would imply a simultaneous response to an activity - sporting event, news item - as opposed to "comment," which might refer to a long-ago event.)

I know there are readers out there who are proofreaders or have editorial experience and may have a well-thumbed Strunk and White on the bookshelf.  Please feel free to commentate.

TYWKIWDBI has a new search gadget

It's embedded in the right sidebar below the translator and above my profile.

This replaces the Lijit search box that was available when I first set up the blog about a hundred years ago.  It had become outmoded and of modest value, and frankly I had reverted to searching my own blog by typing TYWKIWDBI and the search term into Google (one of the advantages of having an odd name).

This morning the "sovrn Publisher Support Team" notified users that the Lijit search was being "laid to rest."  At their suggestion I have inserted in its place a Google Custom Search, which performs a basic Google search, displaying results you can sort by relevance or date.  I suppose it might sneak in some ads, but TYWKIWDBI itself will remain ad-free.

There are now over 13,000 posts on TYWKIWDBI, so I think an improved search engine should be quite useful/entertaining.  Try searching something on this blog, and let me know what you think of the usefulness, capabilities, or limitations of the tool.

21 October 2015

Saturday Night Live presents the Democratic debate

Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon), Bernie Sanders (Larry David), Jim Webb (Alec Baldwin), Lincoln Chafee (Kyle Mooney) and Martin O'Malley (Taran Killam) face off at the Democratic presidential debate, hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper (Jon Rudnitsky).
Larry David's performance as Bernie Sanders has been widely praised.

"The light bulb conspiracy"


A hat tip to my cousin in Barcelona for sending me the link to this video, which is a European production aired by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.

This is a documentary that examines the history and present implementation of "planned obsolescence."  It begins with the worldwide Phoebus cartel that controlled light bulb manufacturing in the early 20th century, then looks at computer printers - at least some of which are manufactured with a chip that locks up the printer after X number of pages are printed.

Probably not 1 in 100 readers of this blog will have the time to view an hour-long program, but I encourage those interested to at least skip ahead to see the effects of global e-waste dumping and Ghana and listen to some of the arguments for "de-growth."

An open letter to a teenage skateboarder

Posted in the Hamilton Spectator:
You're probably about 15 years old, so I don't expect you to be very mature or for you to want a little girl on your skate ramp for that matter. 

What you don't know is that my daughter has been wanting to skateboard for months. I actually had to convince her that skateboarding wasn't for just for boys. So when we walked up to the skate park and saw that it was full of teenaged boys who were smoking and swearing, she immediately wanted to turn around and go home.

I secretly wanted to go too because I didn't want to have to put on my mom voice and exchange words with you. I also didn't want my daughter to feel like she had to be scared of anyone, or that she wasn't entitled to that skate park just as much as you were.

So when she said, "Mom it's full of older boys," I calmly said, "So what, they don't own the skate park." She proceeded to go down the ramp in spite of you and your friends flying past her and grinding rails beside her.

She only had two or three runs in before you approached her and said "Hey, excuse me ..."

I immediately prepared to deliver my "She's allowed to use this park just as much as you guys" speech when I heard you say, "Your feet are wrong. Can I help you?"

You proceeded to spend almost an hour with my daughter showing her how to balance and steer, and she listened to you a feat not attained by most adults.

You held her hand and helped her get up when she fell down and I even heard you tell her to stay away from the rails so that she wouldn't get hurt.

I want you to know that I am proud that you are part of my community, and I want to thank you for being kind to my daughter, even though your friends made fun of you for it.

She left the skate park with a sense of pride and with the confidence that she can do anything, because of you.
Jeanean Thomas, Cambridge

18 October 2015


Share the joy and amazement as a baby experiences rain for the first time.

In a Spiegel Online interview, "whistleblower Peter Wilmshurst discusses how pressure from Big Pharma corrupts research into new medicines and leads companies to cover up fraudulent data. He says he has no regrets about taking on an entire industry."

Listen to a porcupine vocalizing as it enjoys eating a pumpkin.

Paul Krugman counteracts the "fantasies and fictions of the first Republican candidate debate."

Finally, a likely explanation for what happened to the lost colony at Roanoke.

A Bloomberg op-ed piece opines why the Fed should raise interest rates now.

"With Red: A Natural History of the Redhead, Jacky Colliss Harvey sets out to discover everything — what it takes to make a redhead, where in the world they come from and why they exist at all; whether redheads are actually different or just treated differently; how they got their reputation, what that reputation might be and whether they deserve it."

High-school football is undergoing some dramatic changes:
"...convention is being challenged by a more professional model at the highest levels as top players urgently pursue college scholarships, training becomes more specialized, big business opens its wallet, school choice expands, and schools seek to market themselves through sports, some for financial survival. Increasingly, prep football talent is being consolidated on powerful public, private, parochial, charter and magnet school teams. And recruiting to those schools is widespread in one guise or another."
How lights are changed in an IMAX theater.

An impressive apple peeler-slicer from Pampered Chef.

A report that 4/5 of the cocaine being sold in Britain has been cut with a veterinary deworming medicine (levamisole), giving users ulcerating skin lesions.

Razor scooter fail reminds us that smokers and drinkers aren't the only ones causing higher costs for medical insurance.

"A postgraduate student of counter-terrorism was falsely accused of being a terrorist after an official at Staffordshire University had spotted him reading a textbook entitled Terrorism Studies in the college library."

A compilation of incidents occurring during the Hajj.

Robert Reich:  "Meritocracy is a lie."

Watch out!  Slow down!  Be careful on this corner!

A North Carolina woman says she is happier than ever after she fulfilled her lifelong wish of becoming blind.  Drain cleaner to the eyes did the job: "My eyes were screaming and I had some drain cleaner going down my cheek burning my skin,” she said. “But all I could think was ‘I am going blind, it is going to be okay.”

A discussion thread of "what's considered trashy if you're poor, but classy if you're rich."

Arguably the greatest slam dunk in the history of basketball.

A school district has banned elementary students from playing the game of tag:
“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students..."
A Congressman drank the Pope's leftover water.  "The congressman also gave some of the papal water to his wife Debra, and two staff members, to drink. He then invited US Senator Bob Casey, also from Pennsylvania, into his office. Senator Casey brought his wife and mother and they all placed their fingers in the glass."

Security camera footage gif of a bored schoolboy.  Definitely worth the 15-second watch time.

A review of the battle of Agincourt.  I used to include Agincourt in my lectures about death by asphyxiation.

A feel-good story for the day.  "I couldn't imagine spending five hours a day traveling back and forth to work, let alone on foot,” Officer Stamper said..."

The world's only menstruation museum.

A list of this year's winners of MacArthur foundation "genius grants."

A Danish travel company's humorous advertisement ("Do it for Mom") encourages young people to have sex and explains how grandmothers can help them.

A cat gif is better when sound is added.  Or like this.  If you are among those who detest cat gifs, the links are still useful for adding sound to other gifs.

"Few people know that the U.S. government is directly responsible for Popeye's dependence on the canned green vegetable. In the 1930's, America was mired in the Great Depression. The U.S. government was looking for a way to promote iron-rich spinach as a meat substitute. To help spread the word, they decided to hire one of America's favorite celebrities, Popeye the Sailor Man.  It was a smart plan. And it worked like a charm."

The impressive caterpillar of the Hickory Horned Devil (becomes a moth, Citheronia regalis).

A delineation of 994 mass shootings in the United States in 1004 days.

Why the American family farm is the deadliest workplace.

"The City of Montreal is going ahead with its controversial plan to dump eight billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River."

If you need a quick or cheap engraved ID tag for your keys or luggage, go to a pet store and use their tag machine.

California governor Jerry Brown has signed into law "Right To Die" legislation.

A vicar clearing out a cupboard at his church found a forgotten first edition King James Bible dating back to 1611.

Stoke your schadenfreude with this video of the owner of a Lamborghini revving his engine until it catches fire and destroys the vehicle.

"Inside the Koch Brothers' Industrial Empire."

Impressive performance with one and with two hula hoops.

When the NHL goes into overtime now, the competition is 3-on-3.

After an attack by a swan, a man gives the swan what for.

Tips on eating barbecue.

gif of uranium in a cloud chamber.

The top photo is of a replica of the 1868 locomotive "Leviathan," constructed by David Klocke, and photographed by Fred Boucher at Steamfest 2009.  The other images embedded in this divertimento come from a gallery of drawings posted at BibliOdyssey, as a reminder to me that not all early American locomotives were painted black.  Identities and information about the locomotives at the link.

13 October 2015


Photo cropped for emphasis from the original at imgur.

Libraries add "maker spaces" to attract patrons

"A $4,200 recording booth, $5,400 worth of movie animation software and two $750 sewing machines. No, it’s not the wish list of a particularly spoiled, artsy kid. It’s a plan for the future of the Dakota County libraries.

People are visiting libraries less as e-books become more popular, Deputy Library Director Ben Trapskin said. So communities are rethinking how to use the buildings. “We really want to breathe some new life into what we’re all about,” he said. “This is a good reason for people to come back into the space.”...

While Hennepin County libraries do not have a maker spaces for adults, they have added programming, like a knitting group, to fill that niche, Turner said...

Equipment and furnishings are expected to cost $55,000 and will be covered by a grant and a donation. The county is still figuring out how to cover future expenses like repairing equipment and training staff, Trapskin said.

Staffing the area will require a balancing act, said Darcy Schatz, who is on the county’s Library Advisory Committee. Employees will need to help run the equipment without sacrificing other services, she said.

But as communities’ needs have changed, Trapskin said libraries have gotten used to shifting staff and resources — like the donation that will help fund Dakota County’s maker space. That money was originally designated for print reference books."
See also this article about libraries that lend tools (to be blogged separately later).

170,000 Depression-era photos

Yale has released 170,000 images taken by the Farm Security Administration, and organized them into a searchable map

Top photo: pawnshop.  Lower photo:  hobo preparing to eat turtle. 

Many thousands more at the link.  CCC photos are here, but do not show much stonework.

Plant fools dung beetles

Ceratocaryum argenteum, a rush-like flowering plant native to South Africa... produces large, round nuts that are strikingly similar in appearance, smell, and chemical composition to antelope droppings (in particular those of the eland and the bontebok), which the dung beetles accordingly roll away and bury, effectively sowing a new generation of C. argenteum. Although scientists have observed dung beetles providing similar services elsewhere in the plant kingdom—as, for example, when the dung happens to contain fruit seeds—this is the first known case of a dung beetle helping and not ending up with any dung.

Jeremy Midgley, the lead author of the study, which was published on Monday, in the journal Nature Plants, first became interested in Ceratocaryum nuts because of their large size. This quality, he originally hypothesized, might make them attractive to rodents. From the beginning, he told me, the nuts’ distinctive smell was “very apparent and was confusing,” but he thought there was a chance that other animals might not find it off-putting. Using motion-sensitive cameras, Midgley and his colleagues recorded two hundred and fourteen instances of mice interacting with the nuts. In this footage, he said, the general mouse attitude appeared to be “either disinterested or even repelled.” But, by triggering the cameras, the mice revealed something that the biologists might otherwise never have noticed: dung beetles industriously rolling the nuts away. Suddenly, Midgley said, “the color, shape, size, and smell made sense.” The scientists revised their experiment, setting out a large number of Ceratocaryum nuts after the rain (a time favored by dung beetles) and equipping them with fluorescent thread markers that enabled them to be tracked with a special flashlight. Of the sixty-six nuts that were successfully recovered, fifty-three had been buried, beetle-style.
Further details at the The New Yorker.

06 October 2015


Taking a break from blogging in order to attend to some garden chores.  When I return we may talk about hardwood mulch.

03 October 2015

Mammoth find in Michigan

A truly impressive find.  And apparently it was disarticulated by early humans in the region:
James Bristle of Lima Township was digging in a soybean field Monday when he and his friend pulled up what they first thought was a bent, muddy old fence post. But it was actually the rib bone of an ancient woolly mammoth...

“We think we’re dealing with an animal that was at least butchered by humans,” even if the humans didn't kill it, Fisher said. He believes the carcass was placed in a pond — a practice he's observed evidence of at other dig sites in the area. “It was essentially stored meat,” he said.

02 October 2015

WTF, CNN ???

Forget the zero.  Remember the hero:

 Chris Mintz, 30-year old student, took five bullets while charging the gunman.  He is recovering.

Photo via imgur.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...