12 December 2018

Zoomorphic weight

"Zoomorphic weights were widespread in the ancient world. Weights in the shape of frogs and toads were rare in the Near East, but they do occur in Egypt. This frog weight is dated to the second millennium B.C. on the basis of the four line Akkadian inscription under its throat: "a frog [weighing] 10 minas, a legitimate weight of the god Shamash, belonging to Iddin-Nergal, son of Arkat-ili-damqa." The mina was the Mesopotamian unit of measure, weighing about 500 grams (18 ounces)."
Carved from diorite or andesite in Mesopotamia ca 2000-1600 B.C. From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via Uncertain Times.

Adrian's bookcase

"Just showing what's on my main bookshelf at the end of 2012. Not every title is legible, but it's the best of several takes. There's one more shelf underneath (containing textbooks and magazines) which I chose not to include.
Happy to answer any questions."
p.s. - a video like this is a quick way to create documentation for insurance purposes in case of fire, flood, tornado, or other biblioholocaust.

Professor Batty's bookcase

"This is my personal shelf, my wife has her own. The top row are all Icelandic books, with many of the sagas and all of the translated work of Halldór Laxness. This is an active reference for my Laxness in Translation site. There is a fair amount of modern Icelandic fiction on the second row as well; the Arnaldur Indriason mysteries, Sjón's strange novels, along with the late Minnesota author Bill Holm's evocative essay collections. The rest of the case holds music-related books (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Björk), mythology (Robert Graves, Joesph Campbell), folktales, some modern fiction (Douglas Coupland, Jeffery Eugenides, Charles Portis), a variety of art books and some miscellany. Some of the more interesting titles:
Songs of a Sourdough, by Robert W. Service (1907)
The San Francisco Calamity by Earthquake and Fire, by Charles Morris
The Art Journal Volume XVIII, (1879)
After 1903—What?, by Robert Benchley (1938)
California and the West, by Edward Weston (1940)
Growing Pains, by Wanda Gág (1939) 
Most of these books I look at or read fairly often, I don't keep books I won't read again."

Rob's bookcase in Amersfoort

"I didn't do any tidying up, it's always a bit messy. A bookcase is a window in one's soul - I always look at them when I visit somebody. You can spot lots of atlases and historical books, a.o. about NY, Berlin. There are some photo books, books about science, travel, etymology, and even the Von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu I still have to read.

At the top there are two dinosaurs I made when I was (very) young."

11 December 2018

Dora's rainbow bookcase

"This picture was taken a couple of years ago when my husband and I had just moved into our first home together and merged our books collections. Not knowing how best to organize them, I went for visual appeal. So it ends up being a mix of my favorite novels (best is the Dark Tower series), his technical and 'geek' reads (tons of Make magazines on lower shelves not shown because it didn't fit the rainbow effect I was going for), and baby books since we were new parents. As you said in your post, the rest of our lives are delineated by other bookshelves in other rooms."

David's bookshelves

I have one entire bedroom plus my dining area dedicated to some fifteen bookshelves. My large library has always been an integral and important part of my life and identity.

Instead of wide photos of lots of shelves, here are some pics of my “Special Bookshelf” containing books I’ve had the privilege of having signed by the authors. Most of these are science-fiction novels and some are from famous authors that have now passed on, including L. Sprague de Camp, Roger Zelazny, and Jack Williamson, or from once obscure but now well-known guys like George R. R. Martin (Game of Thrones). I interviewed most of these folks back in the ‘80s for a nationally syndicated radio show I co-produced, so most of these were personal signatures.

I also treasure several signed books on shamanism, alternative history, and visionary art from my friends, author Graham Hancock and artist Alex Grey. I’m including a pic of one of the books signed by Golden Age science-fiction author, L. Sprague de Camp and his wife Catherine. At the time I met them, he owned the Conan the Barbarian stories of Robert E. Howard and I got to go along to Cross Plains, Texas while they interviewed people who knew Howard back in the ‘30s.

 Of all my possessions, I think I’d grab these signed books right after rescuing the family photos if there was some disaster.

Zhoen's bookcases

"These are our bookshelves. Best part about our house over the last year and a half we've lived here, is not needing our old make-shift bookcases. So nice to think, "hey, maybe we need more books!"

"As for the books, I'll let them speak for themselves."

10 December 2018

Chris' bookcase

"Here is a picture of my book case that I lost in the floods that hit southern Alberta this year The most ironic book was the first one that floated up at me: Fooled by Randomness by Taleb - one of my favorite books.

My bookshelf was a mix of finance-oriented books, good novels, knick knack curiosity books picked up at used book stores, and the occasional decoration that my wonderful wife put on the shelf to pretty it up. Lately the bottom two shelves were full of children's board books and early readers. I have finally gotten my oldest interested in reading Tolkien and hopefully Bradbury and Asimov soon. It is going to be fun going to used book stores to discover these books again.

In total the volunteers that helped me lift all the useful and useless memories out of my basement lifted thousands of books - God bless the volunteers that lifted my textbooks out. They were heavy enough lugging to classes, but full of water....

The things I was sad to see go were: my Economist magazines - I saved the ones that were 'historical,' culling them every couple of years; my small print finds like a collection of 22 proactive Canadians in the spirit of Bob Edwards; and compilations of Economist papers that I had personally compiled from all the AER tombs and painstakingly photocopied and bound for seminar course reading lists.

Really though I just realized that this bookcase was memories, and sooner or later it and the books on it were destined for a dumpster. The friends that came to help muck it out in the goo and stink and lift the water-filled books and couches up a lot of stairs ... well those I was glad to have. Heck of a wake for all those books."

Jerry's bookcase

This is my home-office bookcase. I'm a freelance writer, and I write about motorcycles. Most of these books are technical volumes, or about motorcycle history. Some are travel books, others repair and service manuals. A couple of items of note on the top shelf: two apothecary jars containing dirt from famous race tracks, both long since gone. The salt shaker contains salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats, where land-speed records are set. The piston atop on the the jars is out of an old motorcycle I used to race. The stuffed Opus the Penguin is…well, it's just there.

The Weaving One's library

"This is my library - the room I promised myself when I was just learning to read and realized I wanted my own books, not hand-me-downs or loans from the library. The only change I made for the picture was to shift my reading lamp out of the way.

Fiction (the first four shelves) is sorted by author, by publication date, except for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series which are in best-guessed chronological Darkover time, and the Star Trek books where author doesn’t really matter. Reference, non-fiction, and YA are on the fifth shelf, and the sixth shelf holds books I haven’t read yet. I read one, decide whether I keep it or not, and then shelve it or send it away. I don’t buy many paperbacks any more - I find them too difficult to read since my eyesight is poor. It took a long time, but I can now not finish a book. I don’t have time to read bad books any more.

I keep books I want to revisit, and I rarely lend - I don’t think I ever got past the selfish “this is my book and you can’t have it!” stage of my development. Too many not returned, or even worse, returned damaged. I’ll buy another copy and send it to someone if I really think they’ll love it.

The chair belonged to my mom’s mother, the rugs belonged to my father’s. The shelves are filled with treasures acquired on travels, at auctions, or (in the case of the Star Trek ephemera) gifts from friends and family. It is the only room in the house that doesn’t have a computer, stereo, or working timepiece. The clock on the top right was rebuilt by my dad, but I’ve never been able to get the weights re-adjusted so it runs anything but slow, so I wind it once a year just to keep it exercised.

What most people don’t know about me: I’ve been poor enough to go hungry but still found money to buy books. I have books I read at least once a year. I can read a paperback a dozen times without anyone being able to tell it has even been open. I have another book shelf in my living room with several of those green grocer bags stashed next to it - the bags are so if the house catches fire, I can get the books on it out of the house before everything else goes. And yes, I’ve timed it."
---The Weaving One

Ionut's books

"First of all, I know this it's far too affected to name these three books a "library," but that's what they are for me. Poor them, they don't even have a place of their own yet.

I relocated from Romania to the UK three months ago and unfortunately books aren't among the things you can bring with you in such an exodus. However, in accord with the radical change of scenery, language included, I have decided to start a new library from scratch. I too am devoted to that catchphrase that the library is the window to a person, and it is a wonderful and exhilarating feeling to start a new library in a new place.

For the moment, it contains just a Romanian-English dictionary, the only book I had brought with me from Romania, and which I sometimes beg to no avail to show me some light in this bizarre language of yours; then Richard Wilhelm's I Ching, which I constantly study; and The Waste Books of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. The other two, Genghis Khan by John Man and Tropic of Capricorn by Simon Reeve are some "easy non-fiction" from the local library, and which is my version of escapist literature in the afternoon or evening, after strenuous mental activity in the morning.

It will be a pleasure to watch this new library grow, with impulsive additions as well as some necessary, well calculated "adornments" (meaning those books I will not read with urgency, but which have to be there) and everything fitting in like pieces of a puzzle, creating in time some kind of mirror in which I can look and always see my true self. Next on the list is a beautifully illustrated edition of H. C. Andersen, who will always be one of my favorite writers; van Gogh's letters; and some Borges."

Stan's bookcase

Today I'm introducing a new feature ("Show Us Your Bookcase") at TYWKIWDBI, inspired by a Guardian essay last year:
Only a bookshelf can truly hold a reader's history and future at the same time... A lifelong reader myself, I've always had an obsession with seeing a person's bookshelf, to get a sense of what they've brought inside their home and their head. Bookshelves are universal in that almost everyone has one, and unique in that no two collections are the same... Sharing your shelf is sharing yourself – showcasing the building blocks that have crafted your knowledge, personality, and identity.
As I read that essay, I was reminded that as a young man I was always eager to examine the bookcases of friends and colleagues to learn more about them.  I confess to still doing that when I visit homes for holiday parties.

So I'll start, with a photo and a brief description (in case the image doesn't supersize) of one of five bookcases in my basement office.
On the top shelf are the complete novels of Agatha Christie, painstakingly scavenged from used-paperback-book stores over perhaps a decade.  Below that, D&D figurines and guidebooks (gathering dust) and a mix of sci-fi and miscellaneous books.

The third shelf down has the residua of what was once a complete collection of the Time-Life Reading Program, first acquired by subscription in the 1960s, then supplemented from old bookstores and the internet, then finally weeded down to just the ones I had rated 4+ after reading.  Behind that and to the right are the complete works of John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson in used paperback and hardbacks, from bookstores and eBay.  Also a stack of favorite sci-fi stories ruthlessly ripped out of annual paperback collections because I didn't want to save the whole book.

Below that the Random House Dictionary that I grab when I need something quickly (the OED doesn't fit on the shelves) and some reference books and small books.  Under that a shelf of mostly nonfiction and archaeology, and finally a tall shelf with notebooks, photo albums, and office supplies.
Scattered on the shelves are some non-book items, including pix of my late father, some geodes and knick-knacks, a spritz-bottle for chasing away cats, and a treasured piece of mortar from the Berlin Wall ("ein Mauerspecht"), pried loose in the dark of night from the East side (!) of the wall in 1989.
The rest of my life is delineated by other bookcases and shelves, but this will do as an introduction.

If you'd like to participate and share your stuff with other TYWKIWDBI readers, here are the guidelines:

1)  Participation is strictly limited to faithful readers of TYWKIWDBI who consistently identify themselves by names in comments.  For this feature "Anonymous" readers are left out (because we wouldn't know which anon was which).  But it's o.k. if you access the comments via the Anonymous choice on the pulldown, and then sign your name, as Swift and others do.

2)  The photo(s) can be of a single shelf (if that defines you), or of a bookcase, or even a wall or room.  Email it to me at the address in my bio in the right sidebar.  Please exclude info (or blur an item) that identifies you too precisely, and show only content that's "safe for work."  You can tidy up a shelf, but don't create an artificial one - this is the equivalent of a come-as-you-are party.

3)  I'd prefer that you NOT include yourself in the photo (this is not a "bookshelfie"), but a pet would be fine.

4)  Include a few words or several paragraphs re things interesting or unusual, but I reserve the right to edit down rambling dissertations and confessionals.

5)  Depending on how many readers participate, I'll plan to post perhaps one item every couple weeks.

Reposted from September 2013.   The "Readers' Bookcases" posts have always been among my favorites.   I started by showing one of my bookcases and invited readers to send me pix and stories about their own.  Over the next five months the bookcases became a weekly feature, with a total of 42 entries over that period.  I am setting this up so that the original series will repost at a rate of a couple per day for the next several weeks while I take a "blogcation" for my trigger thumb.

I'm willing to add some more bookcases to the series if new readers want to send in material as per above, but I won't get started posting such stuff until after the holidays.

09 December 2018

Occupational hazard

Not me.  Unfortunately, just the opposite.  I seem to have acquired a "trigger thumb" - a form of repetitive stress injury which I can't attribute to anything other than excessive use of the mouse (though I'm puzzled why the thumb is the affected digit).

I've already given up Civilization V after finally achieving a King-level domination victory in a standard-size world.  But even without the Civ V my thumb tendon is snapping and I need to give it some nonsteroidals and more importantly some rest.  So, it's time for a blogcation...

While I'm away I'll set up the blog to repost some of my favorite material from 4-5 years ago.

Divertimento #158

An article at The Hill notes that "North Korea's nuclear threat is nothing compared to its cyber warfare capabiities."  "Cyber warfare levels the global playing field in a way nuclear weapons can’t for North Korea. The risk-return calculation for hacking versus nukes is exponentially different."

"A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, says there's "strong evidence" that the longer we spend in education the more likely we are to need glasses."

Photo dramatically illustrates the importance of a firedoor.

"Why All Baking Instructions Want Us To Heat Ovens To 350°F"

"The Chief Executive of children’s charity Barnardo's has claimed that as many as 15,000 children could have been illegally adopted in Ireland."

Video of a perpetual motion machine.  

The Apollo 13 astronauts never said “Houston we have a problem.” 

Just for fun, explore the subReddit "What is this thing?"

"...in many cases, the medicines your doctor prescribes are cheaper than the co-pay your health insurance charges, which means that if you just buy the meds instead of charging them to insurance, you save money. "  

"An Indonesian woman has been found in the belly of a giant [23-foot] python after the swollen snake was captured near where she vanished while tending her vegetable garden, police said on Saturday." 

If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help.

Medieval monasteries branded their books (pix at the link).

In the game of petanque, "to fanny" is to shut out the opponent.  "When a player loses 13 to 0, he is said to fanny ("il est fanny", he's fanny, or "il a fait fanny", he made fanny) and must kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny. Virtually everywhere in Provence where pétanque is played, you will find a picture, woodcarving, or pottery figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny."

"Gaslighting" in the modern era: "People who help domestic abuse survivors say that they are facing an epidemic of women whose abusers are torturing them by breaking into their home smart devices, gaslighting them by changing their thermostat settings, locking them out of their homes, spying on them through their cameras." 

"Fierce yet adorable, Humboldt martens have been described as the west coast’s own Tasmanian devils.... But there are some dangers that the marten cannot withstand – such as marijuana cultivation."

"Using data collected by NASA’s late-great Cassini space probe, scientists have detected traces of complex organic molecules seeping out from Enceladus’ ice-covered ocean. It’s yet another sign that this intriguing Saturnian moon has what it takes to sustain life."

"When you stay in a hotel room and there is a Bible, open the Bible and flip through the pages, sometimes Christians leave cash for each other as a 'pay-it-forward', but you get free money whatever your beliefs."

How to save a wet book.

Romansh is one of Switzerland’s four national languages.

The outcome of the "marshmellow test" is probably strongly influenced by the household income of the child being tested.

"Most of our mainstream political discourse on “fighting inequality” has revolved – for years now – around the more narrow goal of eliminating extreme poverty. Few of our elected leaders ever dare suggest that maybe we ought to think about eliminating extreme wealth as well."

Irony of a pair of signs next to a self-checkout machine.

Water-rich minerals exist between 410 and 660 kilometers below the surface of the earth, in a region called the transition zone, sandwiched between the upper and lower mantles.  " If we consider all of the planet’s surface water as one ocean, and there turn out to be even a few oceans underground, it would change how scientists think of Earth’s interior. But it also raises another question: Where could it have all come from?"

"An Oregon woman who disappeared a week ago has been rescued after surviving at the bottom of a Californian coastal cliff by drinking water using the hose from the radiator of her car which had veered off the road."

"More Movies Should Show Teen Acne."

Video of every Minnesota Vikings touchdown in the 2017-2018 season (15-minute video).

"...the oldest direct evidence of bread found to date, predating the advent of agriculture by at least 4,000 years."

"When a young Birmingham college student's car broke down the night before he was supposed to start a new job, he didn't panic. At least not for long.  Instead, Walter Carr walked. From Homewood to Pelham. All night. In the dark. 20 miles or more."  His employer rewarded him by giving him a car.

3-minute video of a company in China that makes talking sex dolls.   A lot of Westworld vibes here.

"Within the space of a week, two women were impaled by giant umbrellas while enjoying a trip to the beach."

"The largest surviving chained library in the world is at Hereford Cathedral in the UK, where all the books are still kept under lock and key in their original chains. It has been rebuilt in its original arrangement, exactly as it had been from 1611 to 1841." (video at the link)

Take a look at this:  the global seismic network shows worldwide earthquake tremors in real time (toggle for day/week/month). The area around Anchorage Alaska is lit up like a Christmas tree.

A 6-minute study of the "visual footprint" of Darth Vader in the three original Star Wars movies.  Some interesting info.

"Suicides may be greatly underreported in skydivers."  A report in a forensic science journal.

A man and his mother both became infected with rat lungworms after eating raw centipedes.

Embedded images from this book:

This is why you don't shine a laser in someone's eye

"A 9-year-old boy was brought by his parents to our ophthalmology clinic for evaluation of decreased vision in his left eye. Visual acuity in the left eye was 20/100, as compared with 20/20 in the right eye. Funduscopic examination of the left eye revealed a large macular hole with a hypopigmented atrophic area inferiorly (Panel A). Optical coherence tomography confirmed the full-thickness macular hole.

The child reported playing with a green laser pointer and repeatedly gazing into the laser beam... The patient’s vision has remained unchanged during 18 months of follow-up."
It would be hard to find a more devastating place for the injury than the center of the macula (maybe the optic nerve might be worse).   The article doesn't say how long the exposure lasted, or what the power of the laser was.

A bike lock that's "better than nothing"

Buddy Benches and Men's Sheds

Explained at the BBC:
The idea is simple - if a child feels lonely, they can go to the bench as a signal that they need someone to play with. Another child will see them, go and talk to them and include them in their games...

Also known as friendship benches, these pieces of playground furniture have been around for a while, in various countries...

Apart from reducing social isolation and improving mental wellbeing, the hope is that the benches can tackle another problem found, to some degree, in most schools: bullying...

"They don't see it as stigmatised," says Sinead McGilloway, director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at Maynooth University, who led a study of 117 pupils at three schools which have benches. Forty per cent of the children she questioned said they had used the bench, and 90% said if they saw someone else sitting on it they would talk to them...

In a symbolic gesture, the Buddy Bench Ireland team has its benches made by members of the Men's Shed movement.

There are more than 400 Men's Sheds in Ireland. They are a kind of hobby club where men, usually middle-aged or older, come together to make things. It's proved a lifeline for many coping with issues such as divorce and bereavement, by helping them to open up and talk about what they are going through.

Elevator door (Chrysler Building, New York City)

Via Age of Diesel (tons of cool photos there).

Two commentaries on the American health care system

First, from Common Dreams, the argument that a single-payer system is possible and affordable:
Contrary to the doom and gloom of the latest healthcare spending numbers for the US—$3.5 Trillion overall annually, $10,739 per person, now exceeding 18% of GDP while providing worse outcomes, lower quality and shorter life expectancy than any other industrialized country—the Pollin study shows we can guarantee healthcare to all US residents by improving Medicare, and expanding it to everybody...

The study answers the proverbial question—“But how do we pay for it?”—by utilizing the existing public sources that account for 60% of current financing, eliminating commercial insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles, and replacing those with a combination of payroll taxes substantially less than employers are paying now, an upper income tax that makes the wealthy pay their fair share, and a sales tax on non-necessities...

It’s important to note that these savings are not available under a multi-payer system, under a system of Medicare buy-in, or via proposals that keep tens of millions of workers in commercial insurance plans.  In such schemes, the administration costs for providers do not substantially decrease; 20% of the tax subsidies to buy insurance are wasted on overhead, marketing and profits; the leverage to set rates is not as strong; and individual purchase (“buy-in”) undermines the social insurance model that spreads costs...
More at the link.  But way more entertaining is a rant at McSweeney's:
"Welcome to America General Hospital! Seems you have an oozing head injury there. Let’s check your insurance. Okay, quick “heads up” — ha! — that your plan may not cover everything today. What’s that? You want a reasonable price quote, upfront, for our services? Sorry, let me explain a hospital to you: we give you medical care, then we charge whatever the hell we want for it.
If you don’t like that, go fuck yourself and die..."
I"ll put the rest below the fold because the language gets a bit "salty" -

The insignificance of signatures - except...

Very interesting.  The accuracy and reproducibility of signatures is unimportant - except when it comes to absentee ballots.

07 December 2018

Awesome bronchial cast

Excerpts from the report in the New England Journal of Medicine:
A 36-year-old man was admitted to the intensive care unit with an acute exacerbation of chronic heart failure... An Impella ventricular assist device was placed for management of acute heart failure, and a continuous heparin infusion was initiated for systemic anticoagulation. During the next week, the patient had episodes of small-volume hemoptysis, increasing respiratory distress, and increasing use of supplemental oxygen... During an extreme bout of coughing, the patient spontaneously expectorated an intact cast of the right bronchial tree.
This report is incorrectly cited elsewhere as a patient "coughing up part of his lung."   This is, as described, a "cast," just as one might make a cast by pouring liquid aluminum into an anthill or a termite mound.  What's amazing is the completeness of the cast, which begins proximally at the carina and extends outward to include (and occlude) the entire right upper lobe (blue arrows), middle lobe (white) and the RLL (black) out to the subsegmental level and beyond.

To me what is interesting is that the cast must have been expectorated shortly after it formed, because with prolonged complete occlusion he would have developed atelectasis of the distal lung and then would not have been able to generate the compressive force to cough it out.

The Atlantic has an informed discussion of the case.

Wolfpack territories

Data from the Voyageurs Wolf Project:
Here is some evidence for how territorial wolves are. This map is the result of 68,000 GPS-locations from 7 wolves in different packs from this past summer. Each wolf's collar took locations every 20 min (with the exception of the northernmost pack which took locations every 4 hr starting in October) for the duration of the summer...

This detailed GPS-data is incredibly valuable for understanding pack boundaries and also for our predation research. We visited every spot these wolves spent more than 20 minutes to determine if the wolves made a kill.

06 December 2018

The Via Francigena

An article in BBC Travel called my attention to the Via Francigena, which I had not previously read about.
I was walking through a centuries-old village in northern Tuscany with not another human in sight. To my right, a few horses grazed in a large paddock. To my left, beyond an old stone house that looked as though it had stood for hundreds of years, a thick copse expanded into a forest of oak, chestnut, holly and ash trees. There was no sound except the buzzing of insects and the drumbeat of my feet hitting the path – a path that, I realised, had become harder underfoot. I stopped and bent down, my pack weighing heavily on my back. Peering through the dirt and moss, I could see bits of stone, like hundreds of disjointed puzzle pieces leading me ahead. I had stumbled upon an ancient Roman road.

I was on day two of walking the Via Francigena, a 1,000-year-old pilgrimage route that extends around 2,000km from the English city of Canterbury all the way to Rome. Its name is a nod to the fact that it travels through France, but during its history the route was also known as the Via Romea for the city where it ends...

The Via Francigena became, for the most part, forgotten, although sections remained in use as local roads and footpaths... In 1994, the Via Francigena became one of the Council of Europe’s designated Cultural Routes.
The Wikipedia entry has much more information about the route.

Greenhouse gas emissions likened to a "speeding freight train"

Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said Wednesday, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

Scientists described the quickening rate of carbon dioxide emissions in stark terms, comparing it to a “speeding freight train” and laying part of the blame on an unexpected surge in the appetite for oil as people around the world not only buy more cars but also drive them farther than in the past — more than offsetting any gains from the spread of electric vehicles...
“We thought oil use had peaked in the U.S. and Europe 15 years ago,” Dr. Jackson said. “The cheap gasoline prices, bigger cars and people driving more miles are boosting oil use at rates that none of us expected.” 
Text and image from the New York Times, where there is more information.


This one recently sold for ¥1,800,000 (about $15,000 USD).

A note to long-time readers of TYWKIWDBI

Read the Comment section for this post.

Seals with eels in their noses

Multiple cases have been reported.  If you're interested in this, you can read more at Live Science, where it is explained that marine scientists don't understand why this is happening, or whether it is significant.  It could be Obama's fault, or a sign of coming End Times.

05 December 2018

03 December 2018

Poisoned by mussel shells

As reported in Toronto Life:
In 1998, I finished a sculpture of Lilith—the first woman, according to Jewish folklore—made from eggshells. I began using blue mussel shells to create her counterpart: Adam, the first man... I spent up to 12 hours a day grinding and sanding the shells to fit into the shape of Adam’s body...

After a few months working on Adam, I began to feel unwell. I was agitated all of the time. I had constant headaches, and I vomited often, sometimes a few times a day... After a few hours of grinding mussel shells, I would become immobilized. My muscles ached. My hands would cramp when I held my tools...

One day in 2013, I cleaned out my ventilation system, which had trapped years of fine dust. As I swept out the particles, I suddenly felt weak and unable to stand. For the next week, I lay in bed, my mind in a fog. I couldn’t string full sentences together, and my speech was slurred. My whole body was in excruciating, paralyzing pain—my neck, abdomen, arms—and I had suddenly lost all hearing in my left ear...

In 2015, I was diagnosed with heavy-metal poisoning. Doctors found high levels of arsenic and lead in my blood, the result of chronic exposure. The water where the mussels grew was likely contaminated from industrial waste, and the mussel shells I’d been working with for decades were toxic.
You learn something every day.

13th-century Christian cross with a swastika

A bird motif fills the spaces between the arms of the cross.

I haven't found the source of the image (via the Artefactporn subreddit).  The artefact is pictured at this Turkish website.

2.4-million-year-old cut marks on a femur

The discovery of 2.4-million-year-old stone tools and butchered bones at a site in Algeria suggests our distant hominin relatives spread into the northern regions of Africa far earlier than archaeologists assumed...

To put these dates into perspective, our species, Homo sapiens, emerged 300,000 years ago. So the unknown hominins who built these tools were romping around eastern and northern Africa some 2.3 million years before modern humans hit the scene...

Analysis of the fossilized bones revealed characteristic signs of butchery, such as V-shaped gouges involved in evisceration and defleshing, and impact notches suggestive of marrow extraction...
More at Gizmodo.

It's partly Santa's fault

Pink Floyd's "Time"

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.
Home again
I like to be here
When I can
When I come home
Cold and tired
It's good to warm my bones
Beside the fire
Far away
Across the field
Tolling on the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spell

02 December 2018

Kudos to the Starkey Hearing Foundation

I encountered this video today because the Packers are playing the Cardinals.  But this isn't a sports video; it's more of a "people being bros" video - and it's the feel-good video of the week.

More information on the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
"Starkey Hearing Foundation gives the gift of hearing to people in need in the U.S. and around the world. We believe hearing is a vehicle to reflect caring and to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and communities."
The foundation has a high score on Charity Navigator.  I made a contribution to them today.

"They Shall Not Grow Old" - updated

I generally do not enjoy war movies, but this one looks awesome.
They Shall Not Grow Old is a 2018 British documentary film directed and co-produced by Peter Jackson. The film was created using original footage of World War I from the Imperial War Museums' archives, most of it previously unseen, alongside audio from BBC and IWM interviews of British servicemen who fought in the conflict. Most of the footage has been colourised and transformed with modern production techniques, with the addition of sound effects and voice acting to be more evocative and feel closer to the soldiers' actual experiences.
And here's a "making of" interview with Peter Jackson:

Reposted from two weeks ago to note that screenings are now scheduled for selected theaters in the United States on two days in December.   Use this link for information.  It's coming to my city - Yay! - but online ticketing hasn't started yet.  I note the only showings in Madison are in 3D.

Warning:  After about a week of clicking on the link above and getting a message that "online ticketing is being set up for this movie," I finally went to the local theater's website and found that about 50 of the 60 seats in the small theater were already sold out, and the only ones left available were for the front row for this 3D movie.   I got tickets, but at the least-optimal location in the theater.

I recommend using the link above to find which theater(s) in your area are hosting the movie, then going to your theater's website to do the ticketing.

Season's greetings !

Color-corrected and cropped for emphasis from the original at imgur.

Reposted from 2015 because it's still funny.

29 November 2018

This is a natural "rainbow swamp"

If I saw something like this in the woods, I would assume that some idiot had dumped old oilcans in the pond.  Nope.  It's a natural phenomenon.
Years ago, when I was leading swamp walks at Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery, I noticed what looked like an oil slick on the surface of the water. One of the swamp walk leaders with much more experience, Jeff Ripple, explained that the natural oils from the cypress cones disbursed once they dropped in the water.
Top photo via the Pics subreddit.  The quoted text and the photo below are from Florida Hikes.

Princeton student, 1983

Found in the Old School Cool subreddit.  Identity of the young woman at the link.

The myth of the value of diamonds

Do you think diamonds are intrinsically valuable?  Read these excerpts from a superb article at The Atlantic:
The diamond invention—the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem—is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems.

The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd., incorporated in South Africa...

De Beers proved to be the most successful cartel arrangement in the annals of modern commerce. While other commodities, such as gold, silver, copper, rubber, and grains, fluctuated wildly in response to economic conditions, diamonds have continued, with few exceptions, to advance upward in price every year since the Depression...

The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life...

Mitochondrial DNA sometimes is inherited from fathers

"A piece of high school genetics, relied on for many sorts of genetic testing, has been found to have exceptions. Although mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is normally received from the mother, three families have been identified where people received some of their mtDNA, three-quarters in the most extreme case, from their father. The finding may change the way we treat mitochondrial diseases and brings genetic testing for maternal ancestry into question...

Some plants, algae, and yeast get their mtDNA from their fathers, but the relevance to humans is questionable. Cases of partially paternal mtDNA have been seen in fruit flies, and more relevantly mice and sheep. Claims of paternal mtDNA inheritance have been made before, but most turned out to have been errors caused by mislabeling of samples or contamination in the lab. Reflecting the extraordinary nature of her claims, Luo had all sequencing independently conducted at two labs using different techniques and separate blood samples."
Further information at IFL Science.

Big Knickers

Caveats and technicalities discussed at CNN, the Washington Post and The Guardian.

Is your phone unlocked by your fingerprint?

If so, it can be unlocked by fake fingerprints, as explained in Vice's Motherboard:
Known as DeepMasterPrints, these artificially generated fingerprints are similar to the master key for a building. To create a master fingerprint the researchers fed an artificial neural network—a type of computing architecture loosely modeled on the human brain that “learns” based on input data—the real fingerprints from over 6,000 individuals. Although the researchers were not the first to consider creating master fingerprints, they were the first to use a machine learning algorithm to create working master prints...

The master prints generated by the researchers were specifically designed to target the type of fingerprint sensors found in most modern smartphones. These capacitive fingerprints scanners usually only take partial readings of fingerprints when they are placed on the sensor. This is mostly for convenience since it would be impractical to require a user to place their finger on the sensor the exact same way each time they scan their print. The convenience of partial fingerprint readings comes at the cost of security, which is convenient for a sneaky AI. 
So, basically, just assume that nothing you ever do is secure.  Ever.

Via Neatorama.

26 November 2018

Recorded NASA livestream of the Mars landing

The countdown gets more intense beginning at about the 45 minute mark of the recording.

Wouldn't you love to be one of these people for a day, to share their joy and sense of accomplishment.

Here is the InSight homepage.

24 November 2018

Pet Cemetery

"Filmmaker Sam Green was just about to fly out of Columbus, Ohio when his friend offered to make a quick detour. “She asked if I wanted to see a little pet cemetery that's across the street from the airport,” Green told The Atlantic. Armed with his camera, Green captured the tombstones of a menagerie of dearly departed animals...

Green said that he finds graveyards for pets especially moving because the headstones tend to be much more emotive than those found in human cemeteries. “You can say, ‘Buster was the best parakeet who ever lived,’” said Green. “With human graves, everything is so much more constrained.
Via The Atlantic.  Best viewed full-screen.

"Dugnad" explained

This is “dugnad”, a word which literally means help or support in Norwegian, a custom of communal work in Norway that dates back centuries, and one that has existed in some form or another in most agricultural societies around the world.

In Norway, dugnad was traditionally a way of getting big tasks like roofing, haymaking and house-building done, usually followed by a big meal or a feast. In a nation of farmers and fishermen, it functioned as a kind of community insurance scheme. People helped others out and as a result knew that they could always call on the community in their time of need.

Today dugnad has come to mean unpaid voluntary work done in a group, for local, national or international causes. And it’s become so entrenched in contemporary Norway that in 2004 dugnad was voted Norway’s word of the year.

“Last week I had four different dugnads, because of my kids’ football teams. Next week we’re going to have a garden dugnad at work,” says Hanne Hoff, who is one of the organisers...

Surveys show that the number of volunteers in Norway and the amount of time they spend volunteering are high and increasing in some areas. A total of 61% volunteered for at least one organisation in 2014, figures from Statistics Norway show...

He says dugnad is a good opportunity for new people to make connections in the community such as refugees, immigrants and also unemployed people or people without an established social network. He says that while the main reason for taking part in a dugnad is to contribute to a good cause, doing so also boosts self-esteem and can even help develop new skills or connections useful for the job market.  
More at the BBC.

If they offer to pay you with $10 rolls of quarters...

Your tax money at work

Consider for a moment the content of textbooks used by many tax-funded charter schools:
... students who learn from these texts are taught that God wanted Protestantism to flourish in North America and that Catholicism is not a true faith; that it was better Africans to be enslaved and come to "know Christ" than to be free but not Christian; that evolution is untrue; that humans and dinosaurs lived together (and that Noah brought baby dinosaurs on the ark); that the Loch Ness monster is real; that "abortion, gay rights and the Endangered Species Act" are part of a "radical social agenda"; that nonwhites are inferior (60% of the tax-funded scholarship students at charter schools come from racialized minorities and are thus taught that they are racially inferior to their white schoolmates).
More at BoingBoing, with a link to the source article.

The world's longest reverberation

21 November 2018


I have a similar scar where my Achilles tendon was severed and reanastomosed to lengthen it to correct a polio-related contracture.  Never thought about having it tattooed.  Clever.

Via the Tattoos subreddit.


A wattle is a fleshy caruncle hanging from various parts of the head or neck in several groups of birds and mammals. A caruncle is defined as 'A small, fleshy excrescence that is a normal part of an animal's anatomy'. Within this definition, caruncles in birds include wattles, dewlaps, snoods and earlobes. Wattles are generally paired structures but may occur as a single structure... known as a dewlap.

Turkeys' wattles often take a turn for the redder when they feel enlivened, overwhelmed, fearful, angry or alarmed. Whether something good or bad gets their attention, that rush of feeling often makes their wattles temporarily switch color. Apprehension also sometimes makes their wattles bluish.

Although female turkeys do indeed possess wattles, they're easy to miss. This also is the case with several other turkey physical features, namely both snoods and caruncles. Snoods are extremely easy to see right above male turkeys' beaks. Caruncles are noticeable on the males' lower necks, as sizable mounds. These things are simply a lot less apparent in female specimens. The wattles specifically are much lighter and less striking in females.
The word dates to the 1500, but it's origin is uncertain.

Photo via.

Enchroma glasses

If you need something to feel thankful for on Thanksgiving, just be thankful that you have normal color vision.  Then watch the joy this man experiences when he receives Enchroma glasses.

Related: Adaptive glasses for colorblind people.

Note:  They cost about $300.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Vetzakske for reporting an article at Neurologica which discusses the limitations of Enchroma glasses.

The business of Interstate Highway signage

All you need to know (and more) about these omnipresent highway signs is explained at Jalopnik.
Called interstate logo signs or specific service signs, these ubiquitous big blue billboards are godsends to weary travelers searching for gas, food, or lodging close to the highway. Unsurprisingly, the signs aren’t solely there to help out motorists, as they also provide monetary benefit to businesses and, crucially, to the state...

But not everyone is eligible to display their firm’s logo; that’s because the state’s requirements are rather strict, specifying things like distance from the highway, operating hours, required amenities, and number of parking spots available...

The six main types of businesses found on logo signs—local attractions, pharmacies, camping, lodging, food, and gas—are often placed along the highway in that order (in other words, you’ll see the big blue “attractions” sign first and “gas” last), and are usually within one mile of the exit...

Add the annual fee to the cost of making the sign, and any removal/change fees (usually around $100), or fees for additional trailblazer signs (typically about $50), and businesses in some areas could end up spending close to ten grand per year for the advertising for a pair of signs (though most businesses will likely end up spending just a couple of grand).
More at the link, via Neatorama.

18 November 2018

Divertimento #157

"Heat lightning" explained by the National Weather Service.

A man in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin has eaten 30,000 Big Macs. "Through more than four decades, he's gone about eight days total, without eating a Big Mac. The first day missed was the hardest, Gorske said, and that was in 1982, when he drove in a snowstorm to get his sandwich, and the restaurant was closed.

A teacher saves lives by rescheduling her classes.

A (humorous) review of the Chernobyl sarcophagus.

Unusual neon sign outage.

A recent book explains that "companies frequently try to persuade and mobilize their employees to support politicians and policies beneficial to the corporation."

"An Ontario woman is looking for an apology from the Georgia police officer who arrested, handcuffed and charged her because she was driving with a Canadian licence."

Track runner gets tangled in a pole vault crossbar.  You need to see the video to understand how.

Conjoined twin fawns.

Bad stock photos annotated.  Funny.

"The first comprehensive study of the massive pay gap between the US executive suite and average workers has found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio has now reached 339 to 1."

Yanny-Laurel explained (sample at the link to listen for yourself).  "The secret is frequency. The acoustic information that makes us hear Yanny is higher frequency than the acoustic information that makes us hear Laurel. Some of the variation may be due to the audio system playing the sound, Reicke says... Older adults tend to start losing their hearing at the higher frequency ranges, which could explain why Riecke could only hear Laurel, but his eight-year-old daughter could hear Yanny."

"A gun dealer that sells firearms to the CIA has been shopping for napalm — but won’t reveal the customer or how it will be used." 

Star Wars viewed as terrorism (thought-provoking).

"Apparently, the “Penis Facial” really is a new skincare fad."

The red liquid that oozes out after cutting an undercooked steak isn't blood.  It's myoglobin.
ELI5: Why are arrest records and mugshots made publicly available before a guilty conviction is determined by the courts? (answered at the link)

A congressman opines that erosion is the cause of sea-level rise (by deposition of rocks, sand, gravel into the ocean).  This man is on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, for fox ache.

"Hackers possibly working for an advanced nation have infected more than 500,000 home and small-office routers around the world with malware that can be used to collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy the devices with a single command."

Derechos explained.

Turn your car's AC off when you go through a car wash (video at the link).

"Urethral coitus is a rare type of sexual practice, usually due to vaginal agenesis or hymeneal anomalies. We report a case of urethral coitus in a healthy couple who were evaluated for infertility. The female partner had cribriform hymen and dilated urethral orifice but did not report any problems except infertility and her genital anatomy was normal. The male partner reported concerns over his penile size but was otherwise healthy. After incision of hymen, they were able to have vaginal coitus and successfully conceived. While urethral coitus is rare, it should be suspected in women presenting with infertility and a dilated urethral orifice."

Amazing:  "Four in 10 Americans are unable to cover an unexpected expense of $400 or more without resorting to borrowing money or selling some of their possessions, a Federal Reserve annual economic survey has found."

"For more than 1,000 years, a rare reddish-purple seaweed known as dulse has fed coastal communities in Northern Ireland. Now, it’s making waves as a trendy superfood."

Shocking hate crime at a Florida McDonalds.

A senior sports columnists incisively destroys the NFL's policy banning players kneeling during the national anthem.

"... the 77-year-old man who was driving the school bus involved in last week's deadly crash has held a driver's license since 1975 and had a total of 14 license suspensions and eight speeding tickets, a careless driving ticket and a ticket for an improper turn in 2010."

Your three-year-old son did not say this.  (with funny comments in the thread)

"Normally, you only see cotton candy in two forms: dry or dissolved. When you dip it into liquid nitrogen, however, it comes out as something else entirely."  Unexpected.  It's because sugar doesn't dissolve in nitrogen.

Speculation about why Mormons give their children such unusual first names.

"More than 120 pregnant whales were slaughtered in the latest Japanese whale hunt in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean...  Japan claims the whaling is for scientific research, yet also allows the sale of the whale flesh in markets and restaurants. The documents show Japan characterised its latest killings as "biological sampling" that aims to investigate "the structure and dynamics of the Antarctic marine ecosystem”."  I call bullshit.

The maker of Ambien defended its product against Roseanne Barr's claim that it caused her to behave improperly.

"The family of a 30-year-old man who was shot dead by a US sheriff's deputy have been awarded $4 (£3) in damages following a wrongful death lawsuit."

"A crayfish who sacrificed its own limb to survive a boiling pot of spicy soup at a restaurant in China has become an online hero."

The embedded images for this linkfest are from a larger gallery posted by the BBC of entries to the Royal Society of Biology annual photo competition.  Identifying information and photographer credits at the link.
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