15 August 2018

Tranlucent blue tang


via

A beach can be "groomed to death"


Removing trash is necessary, of course, but grooming a beach with industrial-level tools can remove the nutrients that support various lifeforms.  The sterile beach becomes a haven for human sunbathers, but is a literal desert, as explained by a longread at Hakai Magazine:
Santa Monica State Beach, considered by some as the birthplace of beach volleyball, ranks among the busiest in California. As many as 50,000 people flock to this stretch of coastline on a typical summer day, and, at its widest, the beach could potentially accommodate more than 30 volleyball courts. Visiting a freshly raked urban beach like this, few people realize that it can amass over 10,000 kilograms of trash during a busy summer week. After the Memorial Day holiday in May 2015, cleaning crews gathered 39,862 kilograms...

Just as humans may develop allergies from growing up germ-free, beaches are suffering from being too clean. Swept flat each day, the beach can become a biological desert, devoid of the rare plant and animal species that make the coastlines so special. Over two tonnes of decaying kelp get deposited on a kilometer of beach each day, a valuable resource for wildlife that is robbed by city cleanup crews on a daily basis.

Jenifer Dugan, a biologist with the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that beach hoppers, 14-legged “garbage” cleaners that thrive on wrack, have been disappearing from the coastline. “What habitat is disturbed as much as those beaches in Santa Monica?” she asks. “No agricultural practice disturbs the fields twice a day.”

On ungroomed beaches and other areas with little human impact, beach hoppers’ population can reach 100,000 individuals for every meter of beach. And on each meter of beach, they’ll devour 20 kilograms of wrack each month. “The kelp gets vaporized!” says Dugan, who has watched it happen. But when the beach hoppers, isopods, and other invertebrates that subsist on the wrack disappear, shorebirds also go hungry. That’s why barren beaches in California lose birds like killdeer and the endangered western snowy plover. Grooming can also destroy the eggs of the grunion, an unusual fish that lays its eggs in the sand at high tide.
 Wrack, related to wreck, archaic meaning "shipwreck", now used to refer to seaweek or pondweed.

The Law of Jante

I am unable to embed this very nice five-minute video -
https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/forget-hygge-the-laws-that-really-rule-in-scandina/p06gtkxt
- which I think is a better introduction to the subject matter than this rather dry text from Wikipedia:
Used generally in colloquial speech in the Nordic countries as a sociological term to describe a condescending attitude towards individuality and success, the term refers to a mentality that diminishes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while simultaneously denigrating those who try to stand out as individual achievers.

There are ten rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, all expressive of variations on a single theme and usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: You are not to think you're anyone special or that you're better than us.
 
The ten rules state:
  1. You're not to think you are anything special.
  2. You're not to think you are as good as we are.
  3. You're not to think you are smarter than we are.
  4. You're not to imagine yourself better than we are.
  5. You're not to think you know more than we do.
  6. You're not to think you are more important than we are.
  7. You're not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You're not to laugh at us.
  9. You're not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You're not to think you can teach us anything.

Street map


At the entrance to a subdivision, apparently.

Image cropped for size from the original here.

The U.S. - Mexican border, 1848

"We often forget that the boundary between the United States and Mexico was not always where it is today. It used to be seven hundred miles farther north, following what is now the state line between Oregon and California and running east to Wyoming before zagging southeast to Louisiana. Originally home to the indigenous peoples of the region, much of this land was Spanish and then Mexican territory for centuries before becoming what we now think of as the American West.

Spanish colonists and missionaries settled here beginning in 1598. In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain, and by the middle of the century, it was in some ways far more advanced than its neighbor to the northeast. It abolished slavery shortly after independence; black Mexicans soon gained prominent positions, and indigenous people were given the right to vote. All this came to an end in 1848, when the United States seized half of Mexico’s land and created the border that we know today."
More in the photoessay in the February 2018 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Five-minute history lesson for the day


Via Neatorama.

Human-induced global warning. 1912.

This article’s authenticity is supported by the fact it can be found in the digital archives of the National Library of New Zealand.

Further attesting to its authenticity (and perhaps its role as a bit of stock news used to fill space) is that an identical story had appeared in an Australian newspaper a month prior, in the 17 July 1912, issue of The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal, as found in the digital archives of the National Library of Australia.

An even deeper dive reveals that the text of this news item has its origins in the March 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics, where it appeared as a caption in an article titled “Remarkable Weather of 1911: The Effect of the Combustion of Coal on the Climate — What Scientists Predict for the Future”:
More information at Snopes.

13 August 2018

Awesome lightning video

Photographer Dustin Farrell spent the summer of 2017 chasing storms while toting a 4K camera rig that takes 1000 frames per second of raw, uncompressed footage. (For comparison: most movies are shot at 24 frames per second.) After driving 20,000 miles over a 30-day period, he had recorded 10 terabytes of data, which he then whittled down to 3:18 of spectacular video.

What enabled his success was not just the ultrafast frame rate of modern cameras, but also the recording technology in which a camera constantly records, writes to RAM, then overwrites, and overwrites again…until a button is pressed to save the RAM contents.
With a tip of the cap to fellow blogger Fletcher DeLancey, who created Oregon Expat.  I will echo his advice: "Stop what you’re doing and watch this video. But watch it the right way: full screen, in a darkened room, and with a good sound system turned up."

Bodycams worn by police can be hacked

Josh Mitchell, a consultant at the security firm Nuix, analyzed five body camera models from five different companies: Vievu, Patrol Eyes, Fire Cam, Digital Ally, and CeeSc. The companies all market their devices to law enforcement groups around the US...

In all but the Digital Ally device, the vulnerabilities would allow an attacker to download footage off a camera, edit things out or potentially make more intricate modifications, and then re-upload it, leaving no indication of the change. Or an attacker could simply delete footage they don't want law enforcement to have...

Additionally, Mitchell says that some of the more sophisticated models, which contain radios for Bluetooth or cellular data connectivity, also have vulnerabilities that can be exploited to remotely stream live footage off the cameras, or to modify, add, and delete the footage stored on the devices...

Then, when the camera connects to a PC for syncing, it could deliver all sorts of malicious code: a Windows exploit that could ultimately allow an attacker to gain remote access to the police network, ransomware to spread across the network and lock everything down, a worm that infiltrates the department's evidence servers and deletes everything, or even cryptojacking software to mine cryptocurrency using police computing resources...

"These are full-feature computers walking around on your chest, and they have all of the issues that go along with that."
Via BoingBoing.

Behold a modern dairy farm


My grandparents, who had perhaps a dozen "milk cows" on their family farm, would have been awestruck to see the industrial-scale processes that are now involved.  Even my mother, who milked those cows and took the milk cans to the local creamery, would find it hard to believe.  The StarTribune offers some insight:
The milking carousel at the Louriston Dairy turns 22 hours a day and milks more cows in half an hour than most dairies do all day.

Cows step onto the slow-moving merry-go-round in single file. A worker sprays disinfectant on each cow’s udder, another wipes the teats clean with a paper towel, and another secures suction cups onto the teats for milking during a seven-minute trip around the room. Gleaming silver tanks in the next room fill with flash-cooled milk as 106 cows are milked at once.

The farm 18 miles west of Willmar is home to 9,500 cows, 40 times larger than the average U.S. dairy operation. It is part of a fast-growing network of giant farms built and run by Riverview LLP, a Morris, Minn.-based firm that is a game-changer for the Minnesota dairy industry. The company owns 92,000 milk cows — more than all the farmers in Illinois or Virginia — and 60,000 of them are in western Minnesota, where it has nine dairies and is building more...

For 30 years, farms in the Upper Midwest have gotten bigger and farmers who used to work a couple hundred acres now work a couple thousand. In that time, new methods of raising livestock emerged to take advantage of efficiencies of scale. Hogs, poultry and beef cattle disappeared from fields and were moved into massive barns.

This upsizing has come more slowly to dairy farming, but as the number of U.S. dairy farms shrinks, milk production continues to rise. Amid low milk prices and a trade war threatening exports, Riverview is placing massive bets: $50 million in construction and startup costs for each new dairy...
This is a complicated matter, which I don't have the expertise to discuss or critique.

The "potato paradox"

"You have 100 lb of potatoes, which are 99 percent water by weight. You let them dehydrate until they're 98 percent water. How much do they weigh now?

These are "mathematical" potatoes; you can substitute grapes or jellyfish or amoeba if you want something with a higher percentage of wet weight. 

But given the parameters of the question, what is the answer?

50 pounds.  This is a veridical paradox.

White supremacist "rally"


This weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Washington, D.C.  Many of the people inside the police cordon are journalists.  The number of white nationalists was estimated to be a couple dozen.  The counterprotestors numbered in the thousands.

Photo (annotated for clarity) via.

11 August 2018

Two guys watching TV


44 years ago this week, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein watched Nixon resign.

Children can easily hack American election data

Bianca Lewis, 11, has many hobbies. She likes Barbie, video games, fencing, singing… and hacking the infrastructure behind the world’s most powerful democracy.

“I’m going to try and change the votes for Donald Trump,” she tells me. “I’m going to try to give him less votes. Maybe even delete him off of the whole thing.” 

Fortunately for the President, Bianca is attacking a replica website, not the real deal. She’s taking part in a competition organised by R00tz Asylum, a non-profit organisation that promotes “hacking for good”.

Its aim is to send out a dire warning: the voting systems that will be used across America for the mid-term vote in November are, in many cases, so insecure a young child can learn to hack them with just a few minute’s coaching...

Hacking the real websites would be illegal. So instead, Ms Sell’s team created 13 sites that mimicked the real websites, gaping vulnerabilities and all, for 13 so-called “battleground" states - parts of the country where the vote is expected to be tight.

Over the course of a day, 39 kids aged between 8 and 17 took the challenge - 35 of them succeeded in bypassing the trivial security. Pranks ensued...

While the hacks learnt here wouldn’t change actual vote counts - even if carried out for real - they could alter how the vote results were displayed on official websites. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the furore that would be caused were an official election website to declare the wrong candidate the winner.

The fallibility of these systems has been of concern since 2016’s presidential election, and in some cases well before that. Each state in the US is able to come up with its own system, and with budgets tight, many are relying on poorly secured databases and voting machines that run software that’s well over a decade old.
More information at the BBC.

Tetris block distribution


I always wondered about this.  Discussed at the Data Is Beautiful subreddit.

"Our boys need and deserve books"






Yesterday I was reading one of my John Dickson Carr mysteries, in this case a paperback edition published in 1943, and noticed the page above.  Apparently during wartime you could mail a used paperback book to the Army and Navy libraries for a 3c stamp.

Also of some interest was the following list on the next couple pages at the back of the book, listing best-sellers for 1943 (for this company, which obviously leaned toward mysteries).  But interesting anyway.


#232 reminded me how much I was enthralled by Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios when I read it decades ago - staying up most of a night to finish it, as I recall.  I think (hope) I have sufficiently forgotten the plot twist that I'll be able to read and enjoy it again.

Hovenring


From Twisted Sifter:
Hovenring is the world’s first suspended bicycle path roundabout. Located in the Netherlands, Hovenring can be found between the localities of Eindhoven, Veldhoven and Meerhoven which accounts for its name, Dutch for “Ring of the Hovens“.
I'll use this opportunity to start a new category for blog posts: Nice Things We Could Have Instead of a Border Wall.

No, they don't know your secret

It's just random extortion, as explained in the Washington Post:
I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else,” a mysterious letter read. “More importantly, I have evidence of what you’ve been hiding.”

The letterwriter, GreySquare15, threatened to expose a secret — unless Strohl wired the sender $15,750 in bitcoin...

Strohl, who lives in Washington’s Chevy Chase neighborhood, has been happily married for 14 years and said he recognized the letter was a likely scam. After posting about it on a community listserv the next morning, he realized he was one of several residents in the area to receive similar threats in the past month in a scheme the FBI says appears to target affluent neighborhoods across the country...

The customized blackmail threats using a name or other personalized detail to bolster the all-knowing tone in the letters may draw on names and addresses found on publicly available sites or have been acquired through private data the fraudster bought.

“Because of the amount of people’s personally identifiable data out there on the dark Web, criminals can purchase this type of information and attempt to use it against you,” Ames said. “But it’s a scam, and folks should not pay the demand money.”

The fact that someone appears to have access to passwords or other information — even if the information is out of date — can be unsettling all on its own.

Firestorm aftermath


Everyone has seen photos and videos of the wildfires ravaging the western states.  What always startles me is how many of the destroyed homes are not cabins nestled in a woodland - just ordinary houses in a residential subdivision.  Also, as shown in the second photo, the startlingly narrow margin between survival and devastation.

Second image cropped for emphasis from the original, both of which credit City of Redding (California), via a gallery at The Guardian

Related: The Hinckley Firestorm of 1894

The best video on "how to fold a fitted sheet"


If you search YouTube for "how to fold a fitted sheet," the resulting list seems to scroll endlessly.  If I had to recommend one video on the subject, it would be this one, via Neatorama, where Miss C always posts excellent videos.

07 August 2018

"Natural wine" and "glou glou" explained


As explained by The Guardian:
‘Natural wine’ advocates say everything about the modern industry is ethically, ecologically and aesthetically wrong – and have triggered the biggest split in the wine world for a generation...

A recent study showed that 38% of wine lists in London now feature at least one organic, biodynamic or natural wine (the categories can overlap) – more than three times as many as in 2016. “Natural wines are in vogue,” reported the Times last year. “The weird and wonderful flavours will assault your senses with all sorts of wacky scents and quirky flavours.”

As natural wine has grown, it has made enemies. To its many detractors, it is a form of luddism, a sort of viticultural anti-vax movement that lauds the cidery, vinegary faults that science has spent the past century painstakingly eradicating. According to this view, natural wine is a cult intent on rolling back progress in favour of wine best suited to the tastes of Roman peasants. The Spectator has likened it to “flawed cider or rotten sherry” and the Observer to “an acrid, grim burst of acid that makes you want to cry”...

Once you know what to look for, natural wines are easy to spot: they tend to be smellier, cloudier, juicier, more acidic and generally truer to the actual taste of grape than traditional wines. In a way, they represent a return to the core elements that made human beings fall in love with wine when we first began making it, around 6,000 years ago...

The haziness of what actually counts as natural wine is particularly maddening to such traditionalists. “There is no legal definition of natural wine,” Michel Bettane, one of France’s most influential wine critics, told me. “It exists because it proclaims itself so. It is a fantasy of marginal producers.” Robert Parker, perhaps the world’s most powerful wine critic, has called natural wine an “undefined scam”...

..as natural wine advocates point out, the way most wine is produced today looks nothing like this picture-postcard vision. Vineyards are soaked with pesticide and fertiliser to protect the grapes, which are a notoriously fragile crop...

The modern winemaker has access to a vast armamentarium of interventions, from supercharged lab-grown yeast, to antimicrobials, antioxidants, acidity regulators and filtering gelatins, all the way up to industrial machines. Wine is regularly passed through electrical fields to prevent calcium and potassium crystals from forming, injected with various gases to aerate or protect it, or split into its constituent liquids by reverse osmosis and reconstituted with a more pleasing alcohol to juice ratio.

Natural winemakers believe that none of this is necessary...
And more at Grub Street:
Some quibble over which methods count as “natural,” from filtering to machine-harvesting to vineyard architecture. (“I’m offended by vines on a wire. It’s slavery,” a Spanish winemaker tells Lepeltier and Alice Feiring in their book The Dirty Guide to Wine.) Some use prehistoric winemaking methods, like subterranean fermentation in clay amphorae. The semiotics of what counts as “natural,” and why, and who gets to decide, can be a source of rancor...  Whatever the process, the results can be downright funky: white wines that can be amber, orange, and cloudy. Red wines that resemble fizzy beet juice and occluded amethysts. The flavors can be intense and unfamiliar — savory, salty, and startlingly sour. These wines flout the conventions of connoisseurship, but among the city’s wine geeks and sommeliers, natural wine has an intense following. Justin Chearno, the wine director at the Four Horsemen, describes himself as “really, really, really evangelical,” especially early in his career. After Cork Dork author Bianca Bosker’s dismissal of “so-called natural wines” appeared last year in the New York Times, she says she received hate mail...

There’s a lot of really fucked-up natural wine out there,” says Jon Bonné, author of The New Wine Rules, who was, for almost a decade, wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle...
But enough shit-talking. Let’s talk manure. That horse-shit scent, politely called “barnyard,” is the product of Brettanomyces, a bacterium present in many wines. Lepeltier, a partner at downtown bistro Racines NY, explained: “It triggers some sexual stuff. And I’m sure about that.” Lepeltier has a degree in philosophy and total certainty in her opinions and taste. Like a musky perfume, barnyard wines appeal to “something very, very primitive in us. So that’s one reason [people like it]. And the second thing is: You can recognize it.”
And now it's time to explain "glou glou" -
As a recent feature in Fortune explained, “The French, perfecters of both making and consuming natural wine, have an onomatopoeic term for this, glou glou, the sound these easy-drinking reds and whites make hurtling down your throat on a warm June day.” This is wine designed to be gulped, not sipped. Glou glou is both demonstratively and deceptively simple. A visibly unfiltered wine shows off its maker’s rustic approach to viniculture. But that is only possible when the wine is elaborate — organic, biodynamic, location-specific, and labor-intensive.

The glou glou aesthetic applies to more than wine. Glou glou is a stripped-down renovation that showcases a building’s “bones.” It’s not wearing makeup and looking great, because you’re well rested and have an elaborate skin-care routine. (Natural wine, like natural beauty, requires long-term commitment. Minimalism works best when it’s minimal only on the surface.) Glou glou is passing a Polaroid camera around the party (then arranging the Polaroids into an artful display and photographing that with your iPhone). Glou glou is serving caviar with potato chips, as they do at Brunette, a natural-wine bar run by a married couple, designers who ditched New York City for the Hudson Valley. The tabletops are unadorned marble. The walls are whitewashed brick.

Glou glou is a maddening form of luxury, one that simultaneously rejects and performs elitism. Glou glou rejects the near past in favor of a modernized version of the old past. This makes glou glou incomprehensible to tastemakers from the near past — the ones who abandoned whatever elements of the old past glou glou seeks to resurrect. But here’s the worst part: Everyone who partakes in glou glou knows this. Glou glou is self-conscious, self-aware, and self-critical. Glou glou is how millennials do snob.

Like all trends associated with millennials, glou glou boils down to economics...
Lots more at the links, both of which are longreads.   None of this matters to TYWKIWDBI; we are perfectly content swilling an occasional bottle of cheap pinot grigio.  My initial impetus for blogging this topic was the photo of that awesome piece of farm equipment at the top.

The average age of first-time mothers


From the New York Times:
... a new analysis of four decades of births shows that the age that women become mothers varies significantly by geography and education... First-time mothers are older in big cities and on the coasts, and younger in rural areas and in the Great Plains and the South...

The difference in when women start families cuts along many of the same lines that divide the country in other ways, and the biggest one is education. Women with college degrees have children an average of seven years later than those without — and often use the years in between to finish school and build their careers and incomes...

Young mothers are more likely to be conservative and religious, to value traditional gender roles and to reject abortion. Older mothers tend to be liberal, and to split breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities more equally with men, they found...

Being a young mother has benefits, she said: “I still have a lot of energy to deal with them, and when they get older, I won’t be too old.”
Much more discussion at the link.  The map embedded above is not interactive; the one at the link is.  Also, these two graphs are instructive:


Oh, let them drink the red juice !

"A mysterious black sarcophagus was pried open in Alexandria, Egypt... Photos of the gruesome scene found inside the sarcophagus spread quickly online after archaeologists pried open the 30-ton vessel, revealing three decomposed bodies floating in an unidentified red juice. Netizens around the world immediately began speculating about what the substance could be, with many jumping to the outlandish conclusion that the liquid might possess magical healing powers...

The wild theory went so viral it spawned a change.org petition entitled "let the people drink the red liquid from the dark sarcophagus."
"We need to drink the red liquid from the cursed dark sarcophagus in the form of some sort of carbonated energy drink so we can assume its powers and finally die," petition founder Innes McKendrick wrote on the site.
At the time of publication, the petition had accrued 19,013 signatures...
What kind of world do we live in where the authorities deny the common people their right to drink unknown fluids from the bottom of a 2000-year-old sarcophagus?  
...the Egyptian Antiquities Minister spoke out to assure the public that the liquid is not "juice for mummies that contains an elixir of life" — it's just sewage water that managed to leak into the ancient tomb through a small crack in the vessel's side. 
Well, there's that...

BTW, when I checked today, the number of names on the petition is now up to 32,034.

Photo via Popular Mechanics.

Why people are hanged "until dead"

"A popular story in Edinburgh is that of Margaret Dickson, a fishwife from Musselburgh who was hanged in the Grassmarket in 1724 for murdering her illegitimate baby shortly after birth. After the hanging, her body was taken back to Musselburgh on a cart. However, on the way there she awoke. Since, under Scots Law, her punishment had been carried out, she could not be executed for a second time for the same crime (only later were the words "until dead" added to the sentence of hanging). Her "resurrection" was also to some extent seen as divine intervention, and so she was allowed to go free. In later life (and legend) she was referred to as "half-hangit Maggie". There is now a pub in the Grassmarket named after her."

Image via.

Environmental policy in a nutshell


A recent Daily Cartoon at The New Yorker.

Reposted from 2017 to add this headline:


and this one:

This nail gun uses wooden nails


More videos about the company's products.

05 August 2018

Introducing LeBron James and his "I Promise" school


Most Americans don't need an introduction to LeBron James, but I suspect many readers of this blog do not follow sports carefully, and I know that in the past month there have been readers here from over a hundred countries*, so a few words of explanation are in order.

LeBron James is arguably the best basketball player ever to play the sport.  He went directly to the pros from high school without playing in college.  Those interested can browse his biography for the sports statistics - I want to focus on some other aspects of his life.

His exceptional athletic skills have not surprisingly resulted in huge salaries and lucrative endorsement contracts (he was signed by Nike - when he left high school - for $90 million).  In 2016 he was the third-highest earning athlete in the world (after Ronaldo and Messi).

That fame and fortune is not blogworthy, in my view; there are lots of extremely wealthy professional athletes.  I'm writing this post because of what he has done with some of that money.  NBC Nightly News featured the story this week:


For those speed-reading the post and without time for a minute-long video, here are the key points about the school as described in Time:
The most unique feature of the school may be the most ordinary: it’s a traditional public school. Celebrities often back charter schools... Or they open unorthodox private schools... James made a point of giving Akron a new public school. “It’s not a charter school, it’s not a private school, it’s a real-life school in my hometown.”

That said, the school is far from traditional. Its lengthy school day runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with an extended school year that runs from July through May. During a seven-week summer session, the school will provide STEM-based camps. Students will spend time each day on social-emotional learning, and participate in a “supportive circle” after lunch aimed at helping them refocus on work, Cleveland.com reports.

Nutrition is also central to the school’s mission. Every day students will receive free breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks. They will have access to a fitness trainer. James says that, as a kid, he used his bicycle to explore different neighborhoods of Akron — so he gave one to every incoming student...

Since the school considers education to be not just for the pupil but for the whole family, it will offer GED classes and job placement assistance for parents and guardians...

The school selected area students from among those who trail their peers by a year or two in academic performance...  The school is launching with third- and fourth-graders, but plans to add grades each year until it houses first through eighth grade in 2022.

Students get one other notable benefit: If they successfully complete the school program and graduate from high school, James will cover their full tuition at the local public college, University of Akron.
This is a comprehensive approach to education that is way different from the typical charitable gift 
that just funds a building with someone's name on it.  James grew up in poverty in Akron, born to a 16-year-old mother and an absent father.  He understands that a modern school building and curriculum will not lead to success unless the students also have adequate nutrition and an improved home environment.  Also note the rigorous schedule: the school day is eight hours long and the academic year is 10 months long.  And note they chose students not based on prior success, but on prior failure - those trailing their peers in performance.

The next point to make.  LeBron James is the man to whom Laura Ingraham famously said "Shut up and dribble," when he had the effrontery to criticize Trump in an ESPN video.


The above is a screencap; the 2-minute commentary is embedded at this NPR site.  She gives viewers a "dumb jock" alert before showing a clip of James "talking politics again," which she describes as "barely intelligible not to mention ungrammatical."  "Unfortunately a lot of kids and some adults take these ignorant comments seriously.... This is what happens when you leave high school early to join the NBA... Lebron and Kevin, you're great players, but nobody voted for you; millions elected Trump to be their coach.  So keep the political commentary to yourself, or as someone once said, 'shut up and dribble.'"

James responded to her: "We will definitely not shut up and dribble. ... I mean too much to society, too much to the youth, too much to so many kids who feel like they don't have a way out...

That was background.  Here's what came next...

Two days ago, after LeBron's school was publicized, Donald Trump mocked LeBron's intelligence and education:


(The "Mike" he is referring to is basketball player Michael Jordan).  Trump was responding to a public statement by LeBron James that Trump is "dividing America":
“We’re in a position right now in America where this whole race thing is taking over. One, because I believe our president is trying to divide us. He’s dividing us, and what I’ve noticed over the last few months is that he’s kind of used sport to kind of divide us. That’s something that I can’t relate to, because I know that sport was the first time I ever was around someone white. I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got an opportunity to learn about me, and we became very good friends. I was like this is all because of sports. And sports has never been something that divided people. It’s always been something that brings someone together.”
But wait... there's more...

I noticed this week an article in the Washington Post about a crucial special election to replace a Republican who resigned in January coming up this week... in Ohio..
Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, which spans the largely well-to-do suburbs around the state capital and backed President Trump by 11 points in 2016, has been solidly Republican for decades...

But after a string of Republican special-election losses over the past year in areas that voted for Trump but have grown less supportive of him, the vote here on Tuesday to replace Tiberi has suddenly emerged as the latest big test foreshadowing which party will win control of the House in November...

...the 31-year-old Democratic candidate, Danny O’Connor, has kept apace with [the Republican candidate] Balderson, with the latest Monmouth University poll showing the race to be a statistical dead heat...

In a freewheeling 70-minute rally inside a sweltering high school gymnasium Saturday night, Trump briefly promoted Balderson as “really tough . . . really smart” and “the guy that’s gonna do things,” while belittling O’Connor as “a low-level person that did nothing.”

Democrats on the ground say Trump’s visit would only galvanize their efforts in the few days before the election.
Special elections are often determined by voter turnout.  So here is a special election for a historically Republican seat in Congress that is now a statistical tossup and at risk of being flipped by the Democrats, and just before the election Donald Trump disrespects the most popular athlete in the state.

The Republican will probably still win, but I think I'll bookmark this as an example if/when I ever blog a discussion of the term "tone deaf."

Update:  O'Connor is losing by a vote of 50.2% to 49.3% (and Green party candidate 0.6%) with 100% counted but absentee and provisional ballots outstanding.

Blogger's note:  I've spent a couple hours today researching and composing this post, so this will be all my blogging for a day or two.  I would prefer that any comments about this post focus on LeBron James and/or on public education etc.  I plan to delete any comments about Trump/Ingraham etc because at the moment I just don't have time to wade through a shitstorm of political bickering.  I'm due to write another q3monthly "Trump clump" in another couple weeks; save those comments for then.

Addendum:  A tip of the hat to reader Bulletholes for locating an article from Cleveland that provides some details regarding the expenditures by LeBron James vs. those of the school district in developing and maintaining this school and its curriculum.

*click map in right sidebar and scroll down

Top photo via Sports Illustrated.

03 August 2018

Brahmin moth


Adult and caterpillar.  Photo credit to Igor Siwanowicz (gallery at the Telegraph).  Reposted from 2010.

Graduation mortarboard


Via.

Expectation vs. reality: Dolly Parton tribute cake


I had to laugh at one comment: "Looks like Dolly Parton on meth." (The cake is probably an intentionally bad parody rather than a true "cake wreck").

Land use in the United States


This is a schematic diagram, not a "map" - obviously.  But it's also a visually dramatic presentation of some information that is not intuitive.

The actual mapping is available in the first image at the Bloomberg source, where there are other derived graphic images.  Very interesting, with much to ponder.

Median age in the United States, mapped by county


No surprises, really, and lots to think about in this map (click for bigger, but not interactive).

Via the DataIsBeautiful subreddit, where there is a discussion thread.

The world's largest cities in 2100


None of them in the Americas or Europe.  And note none in China.  The numbers are estimates and obviously based on lots of assumptions, but the trend in terms of localization is probably correct.

Details in this 2-minute video.

"Security theater" award winner


No-touch pat-down done to perfection.  "Security theater" explained, for those unfamiliar with the TSA.  Video via BoingBoing.

Dating a coworker

01 August 2018

Big Fukang meteorite


Slab shown above (via).  The original weighed 1,000 kg.
The Fukang pallasite contains large, gem quality olivine, or peridot, in a nickel-iron matrix. The olivines vary in shape from rounded to angular, many are fractured and they range in size from less than five millimetres to several centimetres. The main mass contains several regions of massive olivine clusters up to eleven centimetres (4.3 inches) in diameter with thin metal veins.
Here's more (via):


Very impressive.  I didn't know they could be so beautiful - thought they were just stone or metal.  More on pallasites. You learn something every day.

"Nothing" was a Shakespearean euphemism for female genitalia

Explained at The Telegraph:
The familiarity of the phrase 'much ado about nothing’ belies its complexity. In Shakespeare’s day 'nothing’ was pronounced the same as 'noting’, and the play contains numerous punning references to 'noting’, both in the sense of observation and in the sense of 'notes’ or messages. A third meaning of 'noting’ – musical notation – is also played upon (eg in Balthazar’s speech 'Note this before my notes/There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.’) However it is a fourth use of the homonym – this time as 'nothing’ – that is the most controversial element of the title. 'Nothing’ was Elizabethan slang for the vagina (a vacancy, 'no-thing’ or 'O thing’). Virginity – a state of potentiality rather than actuality – is also much discussed in the play, and it is these twin absences – the vagina and virginity – that lead, in plot terms, to the 'much ado’ of the title. 
This was not something that came up in my high school or college course discussions.  More info at the TodayILearned subreddit, where the example of an "innuendo-laden" dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia is cited -
Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
Ophelia: I think nothing, my lord.
Hamlet: That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
Ophelia: What is, my lord?
Hamlet: Nothing.
- where the word "country" also offers a obvious salacious innuendo.

More discussion at the link, with other Shakespearean citations.  Perhaps I should rewrite the title of my 2010 post Proving that "pussy" jokes are nothing new.

Free sound effects


The BBC has made their 16,000 sound-effect archive available to the public for free for personal or educational purposes. 

A tip of the hat to the elves at No Such Thing As A Fish for the info.

Dirtball


Rear dashcam documents a driver intentionally swerving into puddles to splash pedestrians.

Via the Videos subreddit, where the discussion thread includes some readers' experiences.

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging cap to reader David Laidlaw, who found that the van driver was fired.

Selections from "Bad Newspaper"






Thousands more here.

30 July 2018

Beautiful. And sad.

Every summer, phytoplankton spread across the northern basins of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, with blooms spanning hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometers. Nutrient-rich, cooler waters tend to promote more growth among marine plants and phytoplankton than is found in tropical waters. Blooms this summer off of Scandinavia seem to be particularly intense.

On July 18, 2018, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired a natural-color image [below] of a swirling green phytoplankton bloom in the Gulf of Finland, a section of the Baltic Sea. Note how the phytoplankton trace the edges of a vortex; it is possible that this ocean eddy is pumping up nutrients from the depths...

In recent years, the proliferation of algae blooms in the Baltic Sea has led to the regular appearance of “dead zones” in the basin. Phytoplankton and cyanobacteria consume the abundant nutrients in the Baltic—fueled largely by runoff from sewage and agriculture—and reproduce in such vast numbers that their growth and decay deplete the oxygen content of the water. According to researchers from Finland’s University of Turku, the dead zone this year is estimated to span about 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles).

A research team from Finland and Germany reported this month that oxygen levels in recent years in the Baltic Sea are at their lowest levels in the past 1500 years. More frequent and massive blooms, combined with warming seas due to climate change, are making it harder for fish and other marine life to thrive in this basin.

I cropped the top photo from the lower one; the tiny white dots are boats.

"80% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck"

That's seems hard to believe, but that's the number cited by CNBC:
Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75 percent last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Overall, 71 percent of all U.S. workers said they're now in debt, up from 68 percent a year ago...

Even those making over six figures said they struggle to make ends meet, the report said. Nearly 1 in 10 of those making $100,000 or more said they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 59 percent of those in that salary range said they were in the red.
Commentary in a op-ed piece at The Guardian:
The typical American worker now earns around $44,500 a year, not much more than what the typical worker earned in 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Although the US economy continues to grow, most of the gains have been going to a relatively few top executives of large companies, financiers, and inventors and owners of digital devices.

America doesn’t have a jobs crisis. It has a good jobs crisis...

Two fundamental forces have changed the structure of the US economy, directly altering the balance of power between business and labor. The first is the increasing difficulty for workers of joining together in trade unions. The second is the growing ease by which corporations can join together in oligopolies or to form monopolies...

This great shift in bargaining power, from workers to corporations, has pushed a larger portion of national income into profits and a lower portion into wages than at any time since the second world war. In recent years, most of those profits have gone into higher executive pay and higher share prices rather than into new investment or worker pay...

Another consequence: corporations and wealthy individuals have had more money to pour into political campaigns and lobbying, while labor unions have had far less... 
The combination of high corporate profits and growing corporate political power has created a vicious cycle: higher profits have generated more political influence, which has altered the rules of the game through legislative, congressional, and judicial action – enabling corporations to extract even more profit. The biggest losers, from whom most profits have been extracted, have been average workers.  
Image via the Brookings Institute.

Movie trailers



The most striking example I can think of recently where a trailer was strikingly different from the movie was Suburbicon.  The trailer suggests a Coen brothers-style black comedy in which Matt Damon is the hero. That would be the case only if gang rape and racial violence are considered comedic elements (and Matt Damon is the antithesis of a hero in the film).

And speaking of trailers...



Guess what this one's for (via the whatisthisthing subreddit).

Answer here:


Congratulations to Imran Khan

YouTube link.

I first took note of Imran Khan in this blog back in 2010, when he spearheaded a nationwide effort to address the crisis of massive flooding covering one-fifth of Pakistan.  The following year The Guardian took note of his criticism of longstanding graft and corruption in Pakistan's politics.

That populist approach has culminated in his successful election to lead the country; he is expected to easily form a coalition government and become Prime Minister.  The video above is a 24-minute worthwhile longwatch that incorporates three regional journalists from Islamabad and Lahore.  They make note of the breadth of his appeal, winning districts from the Khyber to Punjab, as well as he major cities.  Perhaps because of his cricketing fame, he is hugely popular (with the people and the politicians) in neighboring India - a major advantage in securing regional peace.  And this morning the India Times headline reads "Chinese media goes gaga over Imran Khan..." after his party Tweeted in Mandarin about improving ties with China.

He has a complicated task ahead, having inherited a government that for generations has been corrupt and has wasted the country's resources.  He has to deal with military generals who have exercised immense control of national policies in the past.  His country shares national borders with India, China, Afghanistan, and Iran.  He will want to continue modernizing his country, with a major focus on the welfare of the common people rather than the military.
Pakistan matters because, with its youthful population of more than 200 million (66% are under 30), it is a country of vast potential handicapped by endemic poverty, illiteracy and inequality. It is also, not coincidentally, a battleground pitting anti-western Islamists, schooled in international jihad in Saudi-funded madrassas, against the secular, anglophone elite. It is central to the “war on terror”. Its stability and security, or lack of it, has a potentially global impact.

For the British, Pakistan exercises an abiding fascination, rooted in the Raj’s disastrous part in its bloody 1947 birth and in continuing, close ethnic and cultural ties. For the Americans, self-anointed heirs to empire, Pakistan plays the dual role of indispensable ally and duplicitous villain in their endless Afghan drama. For many in India, Islamabad is the nuclear-armed bogeyman next door. For expansionist China, Pakistan is a key link in its grandiose Belt and Road trading franchise, reliant on Beijing’s loans, investment and goodwill...
Pakistan’s generals are accustomed to exercising sole control of foreign and security policy. Challenging them can be a career or even life-ending experience. So if Khan, for example, wants to break with the US, befriend India, or talk to terrorists, he had better watch his back. Whatever the popular storyline says about democracy redux, the hidden hand on the new prime minister’s shoulder is real. It will be hard to shake off.
And these thoughts from the New York Times yesterday:
Pakistan has reached a turning point that could possibly alter its dysfunctional trajectory... Mr. Khan brings something new: more star power and mystique than any recent Pakistani leader and perhaps a better chance to change the country’s narrative... “Relatively few Pakistani leaders have won over the West... But Khan is familiar with operating in the international world. He already has strong name recognition. He doesn’t need to be introduced.”

Oxford-educated and once married to a wealthy British woman, Mr. Khan is clearly comfortable in the highest circles of Western power brokers. He was close friends with Princess Diana. (Shortly before she died, Mr. Khan has said, he was trying to help her find a new husband.)

Still, the old Mr. Khan is not necessarily the new Mr. Khan. In recent years, he has undergone a complex metamorphosis, distancing himself from his days as a star athlete and ladies’ man. He now expresses sympathy for the Taliban and for Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, which include the death penalty, positions that play well domestically...

Take his views on religion. He has said that he wants to reform the madrasa system in which countless young Pakistani boys have been brainwashed in Quranic schools to fight for extremist groups. At the same time, Mr. Khan has supported Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and teamed up with hard-line religious groups that a few years ago rioted in Islamabad, the capital...

To Western governments, Mr. Khan’s idiosyncrasies may not even matter that much. Analysts say there are only two issues the West really cares about in Pakistan: militant groups and nuclear arms. Mr. Khan will not have much say in either. The military and intelligence establishment handles both.
The biggest issue that Mr. Khan will control is the economy. This is where he could shine as a leader or quickly be subsumed. Pakistan is facing a balance of payments crisis, its currency has rapidly devalued, its debt is soaring.

Economists say the steps the next prime minister must take are obvious but painful. The national budget (including the military’s) needs to be cut, Pakistanis must pay more for energy, old state-run businesses need to be privatized and taxes — many more taxes — need to be collected.
TYWKIWDBI wishes Imran Khan success in this enormous task.  We will continue to follow events and blog them every now and then.

"Babywearing" explained

When Maura Caldwell was nine months pregnant and working out at her Minneapolis gym, people would often ask to take her photo. Not because she was deadlifting 135 pounds, but because she was doing it with her toddler strapped to her back.

“I love working out and when Grandma wasn’t able to come watch my son, I’d just wear him at the gym and add a little extra weight to my workouts,” Caldwell said. “Now, having had a second baby, I find babywearing even more valuable and essential.”

“Babywearing” is a growing practice among a new generation of parents who are ditching the stroller in favor of strapping their babies — and sometimes even toddlers — into carriers to tote around on their backs, chests or hips. Unlike baby backpacks once used for toting infants to and from home, parents now rely on slings and soft carriers to bring their children with them wherever they go: to the gym, grocery store, concerts, even work.

Though babywearing has been met with safety warnings from the medical field, proponents say it helps infants thrive physically, socially and emotionally.
More information at the StarTribune (whence the photo, cropped for emphasis, credit Richard Tsong-Taatarii), and at Wikipedia, where there is a reminder that this is an ancient and worldwide practice.
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