30 May 2017

Divertimento #128

Vice offers an update on modern sex toys.  Compared to sex toys for women, "The male sex toy market is quite unsophisticated."

"Every four days, a kid crashes a stolen car in Pinellas County....Nissans and Fords become dangerous toys in the hands of kids who don’t know how to turn on a car’s lights or put it in reverse. The thieves are as young as 10 and as light as 50 pounds, cranking the seat all the way up, just to see over the steering wheel. Some are not tall enough to ride all the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens, but they floor the gas pedal to max out the speedometer on the dashboard, all while holding up phones to record videos as proof for friends..."

An interesting hood ornament.

"The safe and familiar on-air meteorologist, with little notice by viewers, has become a public diplomat for global warming."

Reindeer can see ultraviolet light.  "In areas where reindeer live, the sun remains very low in the sky for long periods. This means the light is scattered such that the majority of light that reaches objects is blue or UV. Some parts of the environment absorb UV light and therefore to UV-sensitive reindeer, appear to be black, strongly contrasting with the snow."

Frontotemporal dementia results in behavioral changes without memory loss.

An excellent longread about the physics of (American) football and its relevance to injuries.

North Korea is a major international supplier to methamphetamine.

Very impressive detachable thumb tricks.  Just a 16-second video, but you'll probably watch it more than once.

Trump Clump: (I'm grouping all these together so those who wish to avoid them can scroll past them quickly)
"He made the puzzling claim that Jackson “was really angry that he saw what was happening in regard to the Civil War.” But Jackson died in 1845, and the Civil War didn't begin until 16 years later, in 1861."
A comparison of the language skills of Macron and Trump.
Best candidate to lead an investigation of Russian meddling in the election.
The media are starting to feel sorry for Sean Spicer.  "Spicer’s utility to Trump has diminished. And, as many a Trump loyalist has discovered, you are useful to Trump until you are not — and then you are cast aside."
Giving away secrets.
Joke about someone climbing over the fence at the White House.
There are seven deadly sins.
Trump's tweeted denials of climate change.
This is not a baseball game or a motorsports rally.  Memorial Day solemn ceremony at Arlington Cemetery.  Trump sings along with the National Anthem.
Unusual ways to prepare eggs (video).

Carly Simon reveals a "lost verse" from "You're So Vain."

The public can buy inexpensive "military grade" flashlights (500 lumens) on eBay.

"Republicans officially delete their promise to protect pre-existing conditions, purging the promise from their website."

The website of the Guggenheim allows you to download 200 art books for free.

Conventional banks are unhappy because "credit unions have expanded far beyond their initial charters — to serve a specific group of people with a common bond, such as employees of a company — and can offer most of the same services as banks now, yet they are exempt from paying income tax."

Interesting painted wall segment in a parking garage.

"On January 5, 2015, the camera caught a glimpse of a young white-tailed deer standing near the skeleton with a human rib bone in its mouth..."  This was on a forensic science "body farm," but still... a deer?

A batter strikes out on one pitch.

"Elvis has fallen to the status of “novelty act”, according to David Hesmondhalgh, an author and professor of music at the University of Leeds, who says that any musician whose image transcends their music will ultimately fade away: “If you ask a small child about Elvis, the fact he died on a toilet through overeating or wore a silly suit is all that registers. The music has become far less important than the caricature. His image has been cheapened.”"


Six Bible verses mention shoelaces.   From THE definitive shoelace reference site on the web.  Hat tip to NSTAAF.

Seeing with your tongue, using sensory substitution devices.

The Republican health-care plan gives American's choices.

If you know who the Isdal woman is, please contact Norwegian police.

Children are being killed for insurance money.   States and companies could prevent this by asking themselves "“Why would you put a $750,000 policy on a newborn infant? It seems to make no sense, just on its face.”

This is the Little Girl in the Car Seat video.

This is an excellent online medical advice column for polio survivors. (note you have to "Click on the Volume/Number to read the answers.")

Only serious candidates will respond to this notice.

The Doors were named after Aldous Huxley's The Doors Of Perception, which is a line taken from William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”  The Neatorama link notes several other bands named after classic literature references.

Time and Temperature displays on downtown buildings are things of the past.

This is one reason not to hike downslope on a scree field (notice how far the debris tumbles).

A professional big game hunter died when an elephant cow was shot and fell on him.

The last major primeval forest in Europe - the Białowieża forest in north-eastern Poland - is on the “brink of collapse.”

Swiss cycling team banned for dumping their septic tank beside a California highway.

Scaphism is a form of torture involving insects.

Here's a list of mountain bothies ("remote, rural cottages that have outlived their original purposes but now are kept unlocked for people to take shelter or stay overnight without charge").

There is an entire subreddit for Whatthefuckgetitoffme.

"No thank you"

And finally, in the category of things you can't make up... in the wake of the Manchester attack, a UK politician calls for the death penalty for suicide bombers.  "“But there is one simple step which we can take now: we must bring back the death penalty... I’m not wringing my hands trying to find answers, I’m a politician, it’s my job to come up with answers.””

The embedded images today come from a gallery of Peking opera figures at BibliOdyssey.

26 May 2017

Here's what Nature thinks of your puny roads

Highway 1 meanders more than 650 miles along California’s rugged coastline. The views from this ribbon of asphalt are so spectacular, and the terrain so gorgeous, that the feds declared it an “All-American Road” in 2002. People come from far and wide just to marvel at it. But much of the road was built on fragile ground in one of the most seismically tumultuous places in the world. Last weekend, the Earth reclaimed a sizable chunk of the highway. More than 1 million tons of rock, dirt, and debris tumbled onto the highway on Saturday, burying one-third of a mile of road just south of Big Sur...

Caltrans, the state agency charged with building and maintaining roads, has no idea when the road might open but said it will take months. 
Wired has paired before- and after- photos with a slider.

Photo credit: Google Earth/John Madonna

"Ablaut reduplication" explained

I can't find the original, so* I'll embed this screencap of a ?newspaper article for a quick summary.  More details are available in the Wikipedia article on apophony.  Via the discussion thread at the Interestingasfuck subreddit.
"It's a terrible thing to teach language learners, they'll try to agonizingly remember and apply a rule that is complete and totally instinctive even for natives. Same goes for most grammar "rules", which imho are not rules handed down by grammarians so much as patterns they have noticed."
*A tip of the blogging cap to an anonymous reader and to Paul Parkinson, whose comments led me to the source in a BBC Culture column.  And the book from which the cited text was excerpted is "The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase," which I've requested from our library.

Snickers commercial

This commercial aired during this week's Fargo episode.  It's been a long time since I literally laughed out loud at a commercial.

24 May 2017

Ancient mummy wearing "Adidas boots"

From The Siberian Times:
'Judging by what was found inside the burial we guess that she was from an ordinary social strata,' said Galbadrakh Enkhbat.This is despite the classy appearance of some of the possessions with which she is buried, which might suggest to the uninformed a higher status.

'Various sewing utensils were found with her. This is only our guess, but we think she could have been a seamstress.'..

With her in the grave - found at an altitude of 2,803 metres above sea level - archeologists unearthed 51 items including a 'stunningly beautiful embroidered bag', four costumes, vases, a saddle, her sewing kit and the skull head of a ram.

'The bag was made of felt,' he said. 'Inside was the sewing kit and since the embroidery was on both the bag and the shoes, we can be certain that the embroidery was done by locals.

The women is believed to be of Turkik origin, and the burial is one of the most complete ever found. Experts now believe on the basis of 18 samples taken from the mummy that it does not date from the 6th century AD, as first surmised, but rather from the 10th century, but DNA and radiocarbon testing is still awaited. 
Many more photos at the link.  Here's the bag:

Problems with Olympic medals

From the Washington Post:
Now nearly nine months after the Games ended, it looks like organizers in Rio de Janeiro are still experiencing some hiccups. The latest issue has to do with medals handed out to more than 130 winners —  they’re rusting, chipping or as Agence France-Presse put it, “falling to pieces.”...

Andrada didn’t go into exact details about what exactly he thought was happening, but he called it “completely normal.”.. Olympic gold medals, for example, are actually just 1.34 percent gold. The rest is made of sterling silver, ABC News reports. And about 30 percent of the silver in those thousands of medals awarded in Rio came from recycled silver...

“The most common issue is that they were dropped or mishandled and the varnish has come off and they’ve rusted or gone black in the spot where they were damaged,” Andrada told Reuters, adding that silver medalists have seen the most problems.
And this:
The medals for the 2020 Games will be even more unique, with the promise of being the most environmentally friendly of all time. Per The Post’s Cindy Boren, the medals are slated to be composed of recycled cellphones and small appliances donated by Japanese citizens.


Excerpts from a public speech presented in Sun City, South Carolina last year:
Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart —you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.
I won't name the speaker.  You'll have to guess.

Diagramming sentences
Diagramming Obama's sentences
Diagramming Sara (Palin's) sentences
Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Stan B for providing in his comment a link to this discussion:
It was the kind of utterance that makes professional transcribers question their career choice:
“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”
When President Trump offered that response to a question at a press conference last week, it was the latest example of his tortured syntax, mid-thought changes of subject, and apparent trouble formulating complete sentences, let alone a coherent paragraph, in unscripted speech.

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable...

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans...

Now, Trump’s vocabulary is simpler. He repeats himself over and over, and lurches from one subject to an unrelated one, as in this answer during an interview with the Associated Press last month:
“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency, complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.
The experts noted clear changes from Trump’s unscripted answers 30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue.
More at the link.

The Selk’nam of Patagonia

As reported in Vintage Everyday:

The Selk’nam had no chiefs, but were instead led by wise men (‘fathers of the world’) who were believed to possess spiritual power over people, weather and events. The tribe’s most sacred ceremony was the coming-of-age, or the ‘hain’. Adult male members of the tribe would be painted with red, black and white paint and don fur, down and bark costumes, impersonating much feared spirits. Over a period of days or weeks they would conduct a complex initiation to transition boys into manhood.
One of the last such ceremonies was performed in 1920 and recorded by the missionary, Martin Gusinde... Gusinde’s haunting photographs of the Selk’nam, Yamana, and Kawésqar peoples present a way of life that was already on the brink of extinction when he visited the region in 1918–1924 and that has since ceased to exist.
About a dozen more photos at the link.  Warning: lots of penises.

And I've just this morning found - but haven't explored - what looks like an interesting blog: Patagonian Monsters.

Via Curiosités de Titam.

"Can I get a refill on these placebos?"

Physicians and nurses have known for decades that placebos can generate an observable beneficial therapeutic response.  A recent report offers confirmation:
Placebos have a reputation problem. It is widely believed they are only effective when those taking them are deceived into thinking they are taking real drugs. As such, prescribing dummy or fake treatments is unethical... A review of five studies, involving 260 patients, published last month found that “open-label” placebos – those that patients know contain no active medication – can improve symptoms in a range of conditions...

Last month, his group published a review of previous research that has compared the effects of giving patients open-label placebos with no treatment.
Note the term "open label," indicating that the placebos are described as such when given to the patient.  More at The Guardian.

19 May 2017

Divertimento #127

Blue whale vs. krill.  Whale wins.

"Free-fall lifeboat training."  Not sure, but I think these are used on open-sea oil rigs.

Traffic at a road intersection in Ethiopia.

Jaguar stalks and catches his (surprising) prey.

Very angry bird (language NSFW).  Discussed here.

Dog pulling a kid on a snow saucer.

"Combustibubbles"- but safety goggles in pocket :-( 

American patriot argues with a judge.

Just one question: is the background black or white?

NFL players' heights and weights, 1920s-1990s.

Public fountains are for looking at, not for playing on.

Jeans are "faded" with lasers.

A dog sits in a chair.

HMB while I ride in this golf cart.

Pineapple-picking teamwork.

People who have cats will understand this one.

Jaguar eating underwater.

Look!  Helicopters!  How exciting...

Mouse lemur "rocket"

Baby meets mother's identical twin for the first time.

Fun at the water park.

Fox finds a dog toy.

Why the backs of trucks have underguards.

How to use a fork to help hang a picture on a wall.

Schnauzer prevents little girl from going too deep in ocean.

Dog trained to protect his human.

"Son, I'll get your ball out of the tree..."

Chinese policeman at work.

"Power handshake" toy.

What you can do when you have claws like needles.

Exhibition table tennis rally.

"Mom, help me make a cool video!"  WCGW?

An "atomic trampoline" is impressive.

Apparently this toddler is a future ninja.

Hamster really likes his sand bath.

I would not get in this line.

Optical illusions.

Very vigorous baptism.

Windy day.

Timelapse of a bird building a nest.

Big SUVs don't mind flooded roads.

That one goth friend.

In science class, pay attention to the pendulum.

Baby's first pile of leaves.

In recognition of Syttende Mai, today's embedded pix are lantern slides of Norway: "A selection from a collection of early-20th-century lantern slides held at the Fylkesarkivet of Sogn og Fjordane, a county in the west of Norway. The slides are produced by at least two British photographers – professional photographer Samuel J. Beckett and amateur photographer P. Heywood Hadfield..."

16 May 2017

What a week...

Extended excerpts from the "Weekly Review" column in Harper's Magazine:
May 16, 2017
By Joe Kloc

U.S. president Donald Trump, whose attention span NATO officials announced they will accommodate by limiting their speeches to four minutes, fired FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing one of multiple federal investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government. The president stated that he made the decision based on the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein; Rosenstein threatened to resign because he had never made any such recommendation; and Trump said that "regardless of recommendation" he was going to fire Comey because "Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Trump's principal deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who once tweeted [re Hillary Clinton] that "you're losing" when "you are attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation," said that "the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence" in Comey, and the acting director of the FBI told Congress that Huckabee's statement was "not accurate" and that Comey "enjoyed broad support within the FBI."...

Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, inviting one Russian photographer, but no U.S. journalists, to attend; a White house official said the Russians had "tricked" them into allowing the photographer in; and the photographer published a photo revealing that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was also at the meeting, despite not being on the White House schedule, not being shown in any official White House photographs, and not being mentioned in any subsequent White House accounts of the meeting. It was later reported that during the meeting Trump revealed "highly classified" information concerning the Islamic State to Kislyak, whom current and former U.S. intelligence officials have described as a top spy, and whom several Trump campaign surrogates and administration officials have falsely claimed not to have communicated with...

One senior Trump aide said, "We all know how this looks," while others hid from reporters in their offices, and a former KGB spy said he was "shaking" his head at "the incompetence" of the White House staff. A German lawmaker said that if Trump shared classified information with "other governments at will" he would become "a security risk for the entire Western world"; a European intelligence official said that his country may stop sharing intelligence with the United States; Trump's deputy national-security adviser, Dina Powell, said that reports about the president sharing classified information were "false"; a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry described the reports as "yet another fake"; and Trump, who once called for the execution of Edward Snowden because the former NSA contractor had "given serious information" to Russia, tweeted that he did in fact "share with Russia." A former U.S. intelligence official referred to the situation as a "nightmare," and Public Policy Polling found that more Americans now support than oppose impeaching Trump, who once told a reporter that, when he isn't having a nightmare, the content of his dreams is "always fucking."
Jon Stewart, please come back and put a humorous spin on this, because it's not really funny anymore.

World's oldest stone bracelet

As reported by Archaeology:
A stone bracelet unearthed in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia in 2008 is being called the oldest-known jewelry of its kind. Anatoly Derevyanko, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, and the research team believe that the cave’s Denisovan layers were uncontaminated by human activity from a later period. The soil around the two fragments of the jewelry piece was dated with oxygen isotopic analysis to 40,000 years ago.
Further details in The Siberian Times:
The ancient master was skilled in techniques previously considered not characteristic for the Palaeolithic era, such as drilling with an implement, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning.'.. Initially we thought that it was made by Neanderthals or modern humans, but it turned out that the master was Denisovan, at least in our opinion."
I can't resist adding a photo of Denisova Cave:

What a magnificent place to live in prehistoric times.  It's not surprising that it would have been occupied for tens of thousands of years.

Normal person vs. scientist

xkcd is here.

The "National Popular Vote" vs. the Electoral College

This was new to me:
And, yet, a way out of the electoral chaos is not that far off, thanks to the quiet, wonky National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Though the initiative gets sporadic media coverage, it is hardly general public knowledge. It should be.

The simple compact proposes that states pledge their electoral votes “to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” This rather brilliantly obviates the need for an amendment dumping the Electoral College from the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would only take effect when a sufficient number of states sign on such that their combined electoral votes constitute the magic 270 we’ve always needed to elect a president.

So far 165 electoral votes from 11 states have been secured. Of the remaining 105 required, 82 are seriously in play, having passed at least one legislative chamber in 10 states. Optimistically, we’re 23 new electoral votes away from ridding ourselves of the Electoral College...
More at Salon.  And of course the relevant Wikipedia page on the Electoral College.

I've embedded a map that shows the enormous divide that occurs between "swing states" and "safe states" during presidential elections. "These maps show the amount of attention given to each state by the Bush and Kerry campaigns during the final five weeks of the 2004 election. At the top, each waving hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice presidential candidate during the final five weeks. At the bottom, each dollar sign represents one million dollars spent on TV advertising by the campaigns during the same time period."

Addendum:  For an extensive informed commentary on this subject, see the comments for this post written by reader "toto."

History repeats itself

(The original quote is from George Santayana).

Via Jobsanger

Awake during surgery. On purpose.

From a report in the Wisconsin State Journal:
More doctors are letting patients remain alert during certain surgeries, for logistical, financial and medical reasons. It's a national trend playing out in Madison...

Many patients getting hand or arm surgeries, knee or hip procedures and even some breast and urological operations have started receiving regional or local numbing shots instead of general anesthesia. That can mean a quicker recovery, less cost and fewer side effects...

A small, but growing, fraction of patients is choosing to stay completely awake, with no sedation. They're joining two groups that have long remained conscious during surgery: many women delivering babies through Cesarean sections; and certain brain patients, such as those receiving deep brain stimulation, who must be able to communicate with doctors during their procedures...

Another obstacle the study identified: Surgeons said it's more difficult to teach residents — doctors in training after medical school — if patients are awake. Plus, some patients don't like knowing that residents are participating in their procedures.

The tops of these two tables are the same shape

They are both parallelograms with identical lengths, widths, and angles.  I enhanced the illusion by referring to them as tables, but they really are identical.

You won't believe me.  You'll need to view the graphic at Digg, or read about the Shepard tabletop illusion.

15 May 2017

Happy Mother's Day

It was a happy day for the American robin who built her nest under our screen porch.  For several years we've had a robin nesting under the deck, but this year another one found an unused rain barrel under the screen porch and constructed her nest (conveniently for us) at waist-high level.

Each time I've gone to the back yard for garden chores, the mother robin has left her nest and flown to a nearby tree to chirp loudly (presumably to distract me from the nest).  This morning she flew away but landed on the grass about 10-12 feet away from me and was very loud, so I looked in and saw the first egg had hatched.  I returned later in the afternoon and found the second chick had emerged.  (I could see the nest from a downstairs window, so I didn't go out and disturb her for a final photo.)

I'll return for another photo after the chicks are fledged.

13 May 2017

"Includes hot lunch"

From the "Tuition and Financial Aid" page for Sidwell Friends school in Washington, D.C.:

Middle and Upper Schools $40,840 (includes hot lunch) 

Per year...

Addendum:   After I originally posted this (brief) item, several readers have commented with queries about why this matter caught my eye, so I thought I'd elaborate a little more with an addendum.  The topic came up because of a news story about the young Trump's school tuition (the data I pulled for the above was for the school that Obama's children attended).  And the "includes hot lunch" clarification struck me as a curious item to specify - sort of like "buy this Maserati and get a free tank of gas."

But the general topic of the enormous cost of private education has been on my mind intermittently for quite a while.  Several years ago I helped several classmates as we planned our 50th high school reunion (yes, I'm that old...).  Fiftieth reunions are memoryfests for returning students, but for the schools they are major foci for fundraising.  As we prepared our reunion program, I was gobsmacked to see the current tuition, and I took the opportunity to pull some historic data from the school, then graphed it against the Consumer Price Index.  The results were startling:

I attended this school in the suburbs of Minneapolis in the 1960s, when the tuition was a bit under $1,000 per year, which was a stress for my parents, but one they considered appropriate and necessary.  When I prepared the graph, the most recent data were from 2012: $22,850 for sixth form (senior year) - a 24-fold increase from my tuition.  A quick Google today shows the 2016 data (one more box to the right) to be $25K for kindergarten and $30,000 for senior year [and I note with some bemusement that the webpage specifies "includes lunch" !!]

The school is of course way different nowadays from the school I knew.  In those days it was a "college preparatory (day)school," with a focus on rigorous academic training.   I think my class of 54 students had probably 12-15 National Merit finalists, and 800 scores on college boards were not unusual. But the only student of color was the foreign exchange student, and there were no girls.

Now it's different - the student body reflects "Diversity of race, ethnicity, national origin, geography, religion, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, age, physical ability, and marital, parental or economic status..."  The mission: "Students are expected to participate in an integrated program of academic, artistic and athletic activities in preparation for college, lifelong learning, community service and lives as responsible world citizens."

The current crop of students are preparing to enter a world different from the one I grew up in in the 1970s., so I don't expect their curriculum to include three years of Latin.  But what still strikes me is that tuition graph.  Financial assistance is offered in order to attract the proper mix of students.

But I can't understand why the graph departs so exponentially from the consumer price index.

Talk radio host to become USDA's "top scientist"

You can't make this stuff up.  At least I couldn't.  Maybe Neil Gaiman can...
The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television...

Catherine Woteki, who served as undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama administration, compared the move to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health. The USDA post includes overseeing scientific integrity within the agency.

This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there,” she said in an interview...
More at Pro Publica.  Image via Jobsanger.

I'll close the comments on this one; there is no possible counterargument.

09 May 2017

From the credits for Fargo (1996 movie)

I remember seeing this symbol in the rolling credits at the end of the movie, and like many others I wondered if Prince had been involved in a cameo or as a joke.
For years, it was a source of mystery, with Fargo's cult following not 100% sure if Prince was actually in the film, but The Huffington Post caught up with the film's main villain—Gaear Grimsrud, a.k.a. actor Peter Stormare—and he laid the full story out. As Stormare tells it, Prince and the Coen brothers are actually friends, primarily because they are all from Minnesota. Apparently Prince wanted to have a small role (what would seem to be a dead victim laying in a field) in the film, but was ultimately unable to do it. The symbol was thrown in, with a smile, seemingly to add mystique to the entire Prince/Warner Bros. situation, but the rumor of Prince actually being in the film grew into a wild piece of lore.
And note there is a tiny smiley face inside the symbol.

House of Cards faces competition from real life

From the archives of The New Yorker.

St. Catherine University - M.I.A.C. women's golf champions 2016 - UPDATED

Kudos to the women's golf team at St. Catherine University in Minnesota - newly crowned champions of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
COON RAPIDS, Minn. -- In just six years, the St. Catherine University women's golf program has gone from its infant stages, all the way to conference champions.

The Wildcats completed their incredible ascension up the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) standings by winning the 2016 championship – and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships – Monday at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids, Minn. St. Kate's held off a furious charge from Carleton, as the Knights jumped from fifth to second on Sunday, and actually took the lead on Monday's back nine, but the Wildcats regained the lead and held on for their historic win. St. Catherine shot a 319 both Saturday and Monday sandwiched around a 311 on Sunday, with a  three-day, 54-hole total of 949 [average of 79/round] to claim the title.

The Wildcats first appeared in the MIAC Championships in 2011, and finished either ninth or 10th over their first three seasons, but the last three – culminating in the 2016 title – has shown rapid improvement. The team ascended to sixth in 2014, leapt to third in 2015 and hoisted their first-ever MIAC title in the sport Monday.
Finally - and arguably even more impressive - I would note that in July, these young ladies were recognized as a top-25 academic team nationally:
The Wildcats were named one of the top academic teams in the NCAA with a cumulative team grade point average (GPA) of 3.699 during the 2015-16 season, the WGCA announced Wednesday afternoon.

St. Kate's was tied for 18th in the WGCA's list of the top-25 team GPA's in women's golf. The list included teams from Divisions I, II, and III as well as programs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).  St. Kate's was tied with Yale University at No. 18 and was the highest ranked team from Minnesota. More impressively, the Wildcats were one of only two Division III teams represented on the list, the other being Mount Holyoke College with the No. 22 team GPA in the country.
Left-to-right in the photo (which I think is way better than the staid official one at the team's website) (this one via Instagram): Sydney Busker, Taylor Krouse, Kaitlyn Alvarez, Madi Roe, and Abby Conzemius.  Not in the photo: Nicole Traxler, Maddie Weinman, and coach Mary Sweeney.

Addendum:  I think it's worth noting that the following year, five members of this team received Women's Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) All-American Scholar awards. "The criteria for selection to the All-American Scholar Team are some of the most stringent in all of college athletics. The minimum cumulative GPA is 3.50."  It was senior Kaitlyn Alvarez' fourth such honor, and the third for juinior Sydney Busker. 

Divertimento #126

Some hash brown potatoes have been recalled because they may have been "contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials, that despite our stringent supply standards may have been inadvertently harvested with potatoes."

Did Greeks help sculpt the terra cotta warriors? "Chinese artists may have encountered examples of Greek art, which made its way into Asia after the reign of Alexander the Great..."

"In light of their most successful year ever, every single one of Porsche's 21,000 employees receives a bonus of 9111€ regardless of being an engineer, a cleaning lady or canteen staff."  "Better than working at Comcast, where all their employees got for Comcast making 5 billion last year was a candy bar."

"It took 12 hours and 2,750 shots for Tom Amberry, a 71-year-old retired California podiatrist, to set the world record for free throws consecutively shot and made... Amberry stopped at the 12-hour mark, but only because the gym janitors made him." (He has a cool device that returns the ball to him after each shot).  "He made 500 consecutive free throws on 473 separate occasions, according to notes he kept."

"From the literature, a consensus emerges that there are (only) two groups of mammalian non-swimmers..." (answer at the BBC)

Recycling plants use magnets to sort aluminum (even though aluminum isn't magnetic).   And it's not by process of elimination.  The magnets actually move the aluminum.  Explained at the link.

"Scientists have found a way to use spinach to build working human heart muscle..."

An explanation of why "lb" is used as an abbreviation for "pound."

Sexual subculture of the week: "feederism."

As a banana changes from green to yellow, which stage is the best time to eat it?

A longread at Golfworld gives details about the caddies on the LPGA circuit.

If airport runways were circular, "that would enable planes to take off in the direction most advantageous for them. Namely, the direction without any crosswinds."

Social Security cards (and numbers) explained.

"...the PSAT 8/9 answer sheet begins by asking many very personal questions of each student; though nowhere on the form or booklet does it say these questions are optional... The answer sheet had spaces for the student’s name, grade level, sex, date of birth, student ID number or Social Security number, race/ethnic group, military relation, home address, email address, mobile phone,  grade point average, courses taken, and parents’ highest level of education."

There have been 1500 attacks with acid in London since 2011.  Unlike the worldwide numbers, in the UK over 70% of the victims are men.

Alice Elizabeth Doherty was born in Minneapolis and is the only known person with hypertrichosis lanuginosa born in the United States of America.

The International Edible Book Festival is an annual event usually held on or around April 1, which is also known as Edible Book Day..  "edible books" are created, displayed, and small events are held. The creations are photographed and then consumed...

The original "Brexit" occurred 450,000 years ago.  "The scars of these events can be found on the seabed of the English Channel... huge, 100m-deep [holes] carved into the bedrock and hundreds of metres to several kilometres in diameter... we interpret these as giant plunge pools..."

How NOT to install slats in a door.

The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is now powered by solar energy.  "We believe that this project will help save at least $8,000 to $10,000 off the energy costs on this building alone.."

"When people think about traveling to the past, they worry about accidentally changing the present, but no one in the present really thinks they can radically change the future."  (and 20 other profound "showerthoughts") (there's a subreddit for that)

"A small-town Iowa newspaper with a staff of 10 people - most of whom are related to each other – has won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural companies over farm pollution."

A scientific study of energy expenditure while playing golf.


Details about the Fatty Arbuckle scandal.

The Weather Channel offers a stunning indictment of the sugar industry and how it has destroyed Lake Okeechobee.  "It’s the culmination of 135 years of engineering missteps, hubris and a determination to turn Everglades sawgrass into cash crops."

Transillumination of a stick deodorant container.

Should the world "internet" be capitalized?  Not a simple answer (the proportion of usage is about 50:50).

A guide to medieval coins.

Information about Skrydstrup Woman (and Egtved Girl).

There is a new theory on the biologic cause of migraine. "Contrary to what has previously been believed, we found that the arteries on the outside of the skull did not expand during migraine attacks..."

Swiss chocolate companies are experiencing major problems.

"Discovered in the mud of a shallow lagoon in the Philippines, a living creature of [shipworm] has never been described before – even though its existence has been known for more than 200 years thanks to fossils of the baseball bat-sized tubes that encase the creature." (video at the link)

Dehydration may contribute to chronic renal disease, not just acute renal failure.

"Few people ever saw the images of China girls, although for decades they were ubiquitous in movie theaters. At the beginning of a reel of film, there would be a few frames of a woman’s head. She might be dressed up; she might be scowling at the camera. She might blink or move her head.
But if audiences saw her, it was only because there had been a mistake. These frames weren’t for public consumption. The China girl was there to assist the lab technicians processing the film..."

Googie architecture [not "google"] is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futurist architecture influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age.

Queen Elizabeth II spent more time in the armed forces than the entire Donald Trump family and their in-laws combined.

In April Britain experienced its first ever working day without coal power since the Industrial Revolution.  "A National Grid spokesman said the record low was a sign of things to come, with coal-free days becoming increasingly common as the polluting fuel is phased out."

A woman "missed a $10,000 dream cruise of the Galapagos Islands because she was bumped from an overbooked Air Canada flight."

Remembering Pat Tillman.

"The incidence of angiostrongyliasis, nicknamed “rat lungworm” illness because of its origins (it comes from a parasite in the lungs of rats via rat feces to snails and slugs and then through contaminated food or drink to humans) is on the rise in Hawaii."

A nightmare scenario for Florida:  "If property values start to fall, Cason said, banks could stop writing 30-year mortgages for coastal homes, shrinking the pool of able buyers and sending prices lower still. Those properties make up a quarter of the city’s tax base; if that revenue fell, the city would struggle to provide the services that make it such a desirable place to live, causing more sales and another drop in revenue. And all of that could happen before the rising sea consumes a single home."

The ultimate "steadicam."

Showerthought: "University is great because you're effectively an unemployed alcoholic, but your parents are really proud of you."

Indian "pundits" were spies who mapped huge swathes of South Asia.  "Singh took detailed records of his trips, taken on foot through forbidden lands, often under cover of darkness. At the end of each years-long adventure, he returned his hard-won intel to his employer, the British Crown."  They recorded their results on using a rosary and a prayer wheel.

Suggestions for overcoming "Ad-block walls."

How to open an apparently impossible puzzle box.  (very clever mechanism)

"According to legend, pirate treasure reportedly worth £100 million is buried on an Indian Ocean island. Although the region is thought to be littered with hidden treasure, this one is said to be the Holy Grail, the world’s biggest booty haul. The story, which reads like a Hollywood script, has been passed down through generations on the islands of the Seychelles and La Réunion."

"Belphegor's prime is the palindromic prime number 1000000000000066600000000000001, a number which reads the same both backwards and forwards and is only divisible by itself and one."
Easy to remember: 13 zeros followed by "666" followed by 13 zeros.

Updated information on Otzi.

"Melissophilia might just be the weirdest, most awkward and most cringeworthy sexual fetish ever..."

The images today are of stinging caterpillars, from a gallery at ThoughtCo (identification and photo credits at the link.)

08 May 2017

Bearded tit having a drink

Credit Edwin Kats.

"The domino defect"

"It didn't work out as some Leavers thought."

Cartoon credit Thomas Taylor via Twitter.

"Beach comes in, beach goes out. You can't explain that."

Here's the "before" shoreline:

As reported in The Telegraph:
Villagers are delighted after an entire beach that was washed away 33 years ago has reappeared virtually overnight thanks to a freak tide. The beach near the Irish village of Dooagh on Achill Island vanished in Spring storms of 1984 after waves washed away all the sand.  But hundreds of thousands of tons of sand were dumped on the beach over ten days in April, re-creating a stunning 300m long beach.
Re the title.

Photo credits: Seán Molloy / SWNS.com and Achill Tourism / SWNS.com

House for sale

I quote from the Zillow listing:
Please read carefully before scheduling showings. May not qualify for financing. Great "diamond in the rough" investment property or primary home needing separate apartments. Little is known about condition except that property has active roof leaks. Property is being sold "as-is" with no repairs, no clean-up, and no warranties expressed or implied. Upstairs apartment cannot be shown under any circumstances. Buyer assumes responsibility for the month-to-month tenancy in the upstairs apartment. Occupant has never paid, and no security deposit is being held, but there is a lease in place. (Yes, it does not make sense, please don't bother asking.)...
More at the link, if you can get past the concept of buying a house with a permanent upstairs tenant. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...