24 December 2016

Divertimento #120

Cuck” is the right’s political epithet du jour for liberals.

"In 1947, when I was just three years old a doctor removed my clitoris. Female genital mutilation is mostly associated with African cultures, and non-Christian religions, but my FGM happened in white, midwest America. It took place in a church clinic that used a scalpel on girls who masturbated.

All Things Medieval is exactly that.  Worth a visit if you have an interest in that era of history.

"The Great Plains lost more grassland to agriculture in 2014 than the Brazilian Amazon lost to deforestation, says a recent report from the World Wide Fund for Nature. And it argues that the continued expansion of cropland in the region may be threatening birds, pollinators and even drinking water, while releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year."

Recaps of season 1 of Westworld - quite useful for those confused by varying timelines and ambiguities of various characters.

If you enjoy video poker, read this.  (If you don't... don't bother)

Christiane Amanpour had some harsh words for journalists regarding "fair and balanced" reporting in her speech to the Committee to Protect Journalists: "...It appeared much of the media got itself into knots trying to differentiate between balance, objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, truth. We cannot continue the old paradigm – let’s say like over global warming, where 99.9% of the empirical scientific evidence is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers. I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.  I believe in being truthful, not neutral."

2016 United States election interference by Russia.

A video of a Hatchimal hatching (for those wondering what the excitement is all about).

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) published a report today in the journal Cell detailing their discovery of a link between intestinal bacteriaand Parkinson’s disease.

"It’s almost impossible to find one of Britain’s secret, underground military bases unless you know what to look for. In the years since they were built, starting in 1940, many of them have collapsed or fallen into disrepair. While the bunkers are no longer camouflaged today, they still guard their secrets. To the untrained eye, their entrances might look like random holes in the ground.

Rats are good jumpers (gif of little girl and her pet).

Hope for the future: "The BBC has confirmed that the first three episodes of Planet Earth II have attracted more viewers in the 16 to 34 age bracket than The X Factor on ITV."

This is the season for the epidemic of porch piracy as people steal packages from front doors.  Some residents are fighting back.

A Minnesota high-school ice hockey goalie made 98 saves in one game (a new national record). "Controlling the puck in the Storm end for 4- and 5-minute stretches at a time, the Dragons unloaded 45 shots on Bruns in the first period, 41 in the second and slowed to a mere 24 in the third."

How to make an edible geode using rock candy.

Kangaroos can disembowel other animals with their kick, or place them in a choke hold and drown them.

Bitumen from Syria has been found inside an Anglo-Saxon gravesite at Sutton Hoo.  "Given the geopolitics in Britain at the time, it was easier for an East Anglian noble to get bitumen from Syria than from the west of England."

"The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget..."

"Guzzlers" are artificial waterholes distributed throughout the American West.  They are important to the survival of a variety of wildlife.

"Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone [solar, wind, and hydro] for four consecutive days..."  And in a related story, coal is never going to recover as a thriving industry: "Coal does not have a regulation problem, as the industry claims. Instead, it has a growing market problem, as other technologies are increasingly able to produce electricity at lower cost. And that trend is unlikely to end."

People are not allowed to pump their own gasoline in New Jersey and Oregon.

Thousands of Montana snow geese die after landing in toxic, acidic mine pit.

Hundreds of fake retail and product apps have popped up in Apple’s App Store in recent weeks.  "Entering credit card information opens a customer to potential financial fraud. Some fake apps contain malware that can steal personal information or even lock the phone until the user pays a ransom."

"In 1942 a British forest guard in Roopkund, India made an alarming discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons. That summer, the ice melting revealed even more skeletal remains, floating in the water and lying haphazardly around the lake’s edges. Something horrible had happened here."

The 100 movies with the highest ratings at Rotton Tomatoes.

Impressive gif: how orcas team up to dislodge a seal from an ice floe.

The words execute and kill are synonyms.  But they are also antonyms.  (because "execute" is a contranym).

"Six pharmaceutical executives who worked for fentanyl company Insys Therapeutics, including a former CEO, were arrested on Thursday and charged with leading a nationwide conspiracy to defraud insurance companies and bribe doctors to prescribe their powerful and addictive opioid painkiller."

There is a subreddit for thalassophobia.

"A new ransomware variant has been discovered using an innovative system to increase infections: the software turns victims into attackers by offering a pyramid scheme-style discount. Any user who finds themselves infected with the Popcorn Time malware... is offered the ability to unlock their files for a cash payment, usually one bitcoin ($772.67/£613.20). But they also have a second option, described by the developers as “the nasty way”: passing on a link to the malware. “If two or more people install this file and pay, we will decrypt your files for free”.

The most popular baby names in the United States from 1910-2015 (animated, by state).

"For decades, people have puzzled over Racetrack Playa, where hundreds of rocks weighing as much as 700 pounds roam across the surface of the dry lake bed, leaving meandering tracks hundreds of yards long."  Now the process has been captured on video.

Discussion thread about the fact that the average net worth of an American 21-year-old today is -$33,000.

How to make your own vanilla extract.  "All you need are cute glass bottles, fresh vanilla beans, unflavored vodka and a little bit of time."

"Americans built more than one hundred thousand kit houses, sold mostly by Sears, in the first half of last century. These were shipped out on boxcars, complete, with between ten thousand and thirty thousand pieces, braces to brads. Midcentury, Popular Mechanics sold several varieties of home designs—the Modern House, the Family House, the Plywood House. There's no telling how many of those were built. Totman's precut house was sold as a concept listing the materials at three prices: $1,800, $2,800, or $3,800."

A well-done longread on the history of Cahokia.

How to escape from zip ties using your shoelaces.

The Japanese sport of "Boutaoshi" meaning "Bring the pole down."

WWII shipwrecks in the Pacific are being illegally harvested for their metal content.  "...a Dutch expedition preparing a 75th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of the Java Sea found only holes on the seafloor where the ships used to be... While Great Britain and the Netherlands are not to blame for the destruction of the ships in the Java Sea, both countries have repeatedly failed to protect war graves. The Netherlands has a significant illegal salvage industry, notably looting HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue, and HMS Cressy off the Dutch coast. Similarly, UK salvers have exploited historic Dutch shipwrecks.

The extremely sad tale of Mary the elephant, who was executed by hanging (don't read this if you love animals).

Urban football ["soccer"] pitches don't have to be rectangular.

Happy 300th birthday to legendary landscape architect Capability Brown.

Water, water, everywhere.  Now confirmed on the dwarf planet Ceres.

"Two feisty employees of a San Bernardino sex shop fought off an armed robber, yelling at him and throwing sex toys to chase him out of the store with no money." (video at the link.)

Photos from "Blood and beehives: Phyllis Posnick's styling for Vogue."  Re the first image: "‘The model’s eyes were closed for two hours while Penn photographed every possible variation... He had a picture that wasn’t especially exciting or memorable, but there was nothing that he hadn’t already tried... Our model opened her eyes, and I saw that they were completely bloodshot. Penn said, “Don’t move.” He did just two or three more exposures."


  1. On "cuck", I enjoyed the podcast at http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-12-14/what-cuck up to the 22:30 mark. (Beyond that point it's not worth your time.)

    The genital mutilation article is horrifying and rage-inducing, and I intend to share it.

    I read a handful of other articles on the list, but because it's holiday season, I didn't read many.

  2. re: gas pumping in New Jersey; I lived in Massachusetts for a while outside of Boston, and the town I lived in was a no pumping your own gas town, while the one I worked in a couple miles over, was a pump your own.

    To make it even more interesting, the station right next to my work to the South was a full service, while the one slightly further North (in the same town) was self service. I never knew if I should get out or not!


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