01 July 2018

Divertimento #153

I haven't posted a proper linkfest since April, and a lot has happened since then.  Here goes...

Decapitated wasp grabs its head and flies away.

"Finnish security researchers Tomi Tuominen and Timo Hirvonen can clone many master hotel keys very quickly using their clever cryptography, an expired keycard from the hotel trash, and a $300 Proxmark RFID card reading and writing device. It takes them about one minute to create a master hotel key..."

The most popular dog in the United States should come as no surprise, but the extent and duration of that popularity is quite impressive (brief video).

Television reporter talks to a mushroom (40 second video).

"The subprime car-lending industry -- charging exorbitant rates for car-loans to people least suited to afford them, enforced through orwellian technologies, obscuring the risk by spinning the debt into high-risk/high-yield bonds -- is collapsing.. Meanwhile, the borrowers -- lent money that everyone understood they couldn't afford, backed by assets that depreciated by 50% the day they were acquired -- are defaulting and missing payments like crazy, at a rate that puts the subprime housing bubble in the shade."

 "When a young sperm whale washed up on a beach in southern Spain, scientists wanted to know what killed it. They now know: waste -- 64 pounds of it. Most of it plastic, but also ropes, pieces of net and other debris lodged in its stomach..."

How to throw a punch.

Beware of rent-to-own homes: "It was not until a few years after he moved in that Zachary Anderson realized that he was not, in fact, the owner of the house he thought he’d purchased. Anderson had already spent tens of thousands of dollars repairing a hole in the roof, replacing a cracked sidewalk, and fixing the ceilings... “They get free work out of a lot of people.” Anderson had entered into a contract for deed, a type of transaction that was rampant in the 1950s and 1960s... The contracts are designed to fail, Tullos, the Legal Aid lawyer, said, because they require tenants to do so many repairs so rapidly."

"...a global team of researchers analyzed the salt content in 2,000 breads sold in 32 countries and regions... Some of the products analyzed in the report — like the rosemary focaccia from Ace Bakery in Canada — were “saltier than seawater.”"

"Member states have voted in favour of an almost complete ban on the use of neonicotinoid insecticides across the EU."

"Entitled deadbeat finally breaks out of 20-year cycle of government dependency."

(related) “There are many qualified conservatives who would be effective representatives for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, and Paul Nehlen isn’t one of them,” said Kevin Seifert, the head of [Paul] Ryan’s political operation. “His bigoted rhetoric and his reprehensible statements should disqualify him from holding any public office..."

Why concrete needs rebar.  8-minute video - very good.

"Recent research and clinical psychologists now suggest that some adolescents are engaging in a newer form of self-aggression — digital self-harm. They're anonymously posting mean and derogatory comments about themselves on social media."

"You should not pay for TurboTax. If you want to use a free version of TurboTax or H&R Block at Home or Credit Karma Tax or TaxAct, go nuts. But for the love of God, don't give Intuit money. TurboTax is an evil, parasitic product that exists entirely because taxes are confusing and hard to file. Worse than that, Intuit is one of the loudest voices on Capitol Hill arguing against measures that make it easier to pay taxes."

How to trap mice using a bowl of peanut oilNonlethal.

"A fishing ship carrying 600 illegal nets stretching up to 18 miles has been seized after it escaped Chinese authorities, while using the flags of eight different countries to evade capture... Gillnetting has been banned in Antarctic waters since 2006 and is described by Australia as posing a “huge risk to almost all marine life, including marine mammals.. Navy deputy chief of staff Achmad Taufiqoerrochman was quoted in the statement as saying the Indonesian crew lacked travel documents and had been at sea for a long time without pay, indicating they may have been victims of trafficking."

"Temperatures reported to have cracked 50.2 degrees Celsius (122.3 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday in Nawabshah, located about 127 miles northeast of Karachi. If confirmed, that could make the measurement not just the hottest ever recorded for April in Pakistan, but the hottest ever reliably recorded for April anywhere on Earth."

A longread on income inequality worldwide.

The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation has declined in strength by 15 percent since the mid-20th century to a “new record low,” the scientists conclude in a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nature. That’s a decrease of 3 million cubic meters of water per second, the equivalent of nearly 15 Amazon rivers... The AMOC brings warm water from the equator up toward the Atlantic’s northern reaches and cold water back down through the deep ocean... The circulation is also critical for fisheries off the U.S. Atlantic coast, a key part of New England’s economy... It’s not just fisheries: If the slowdown trend continues, it is expected to drive strong sea-level rise against the Eastern Seaboard... because the northward flow of the Gulf Stream pushes waters to its right — which means that the ocean piles up against the coast of Europe. But as the current weakens, some of the water flows back toward the United States’ East Coast instead..."

The newly-appointed head of NASA has no professional science background.

"The outback was, and is, home to an extraordinary number of wild camels. The government-supported website Feral Scan, which monitors invasive species, puts the current number at between 1 and 1.2 million, with this amount reportedly doubling every eight or nine years... They carried wool and water, telegraph poles and railway sleepers, tea and tobacco. Aboriginals began to incorporate camel hair into their artefacts."

"Prisoners are so unhappy with the quality and quantity of prison food that they receive that they have begun relying on ramen noodles -- a cheap, durable food product -- as a form of money in the underground economy. Because it is cheap, tasty, and rich in calories, ramen has become so valuable that it is used to exchange for other goods." This is in the United States.

Photo of a boy with two lobsters.  Big lobsters.

"Shrinking reservoirs in Morocco, India, Iraq and Spain could spark the next “day zero” water crisis... The starkest decline is that of Morocco’s second-largest reservoir, Al Massira, which has shrunk by 60% in three years due to recurring drought, expanding irrigation and the increasing thirst of neighbouring cities such as Casablanca... In Iraq, the Mosul Dam has seen a more protracted decline but it is also now down 60% from its peak in the 1990s as a result of low rainfall and competing demand from Turkish hydropower projects upstream..."

Frozen river in Montana starts to break up.  Five-minute video.

Yet another discourse about how many spaces to put after a period.
"In China and India, men outnumber women by 70 million. Both nations are belatedly trying to come to grips with the policies that created this male-heavy generation... Beyond an epidemic of loneliness, the imbalance distorts labor markets, drives up savings rates in China and drives down consumption, artificially inflates certain property values, and parallels increases in violent crime, trafficking or prostitution in a growing number of locations. Those consequences are not confined to China and India, but reach deep into their Asian neighbors and distort the economies of Europe and the Americas, as well. Barely recognized, the ramifications of too many men are only starting to come into sight..."

Queensland's green-haired turtle breathes through its genitals.

Remembering Karl Kasell of NPR. "Mr. Kasell’s voice, resonant and reassuring, with a lilting trace of his North Carolina tobacco country heritage, helped define NPR as an emerging force in news broadcasting. He joined the public radio network in 1975 and, four years later, helped inaugurate “Morning Edition,” writing and reading five-minute news updates from pre-dawn to the lunch hour... He parlayed that stolid reputation into unexpected laughs when he signed on for “Wait Wait” in 1998..."

For fox ache: "A group of cancer doctors focused on bringing down the cost of treatments by testing whether lower — and cheaper — doses are effective thought they had found a prime candidate in a blood cancer drug called Imbruvica that typically costs $148,000 a year... early clinical evidence indicated that patients with [CLL] might do just as well on one or two pills a day after completing an initial round of treatment at three pills per day."  So - the company is going to reformulate the medication and charge a flat price of about $400, or triple the original cost of the pill.

"A Canadian naturopath claims she treated a 4-year-old boy's behavioral problems with a controversial homeopathic remedy — this is, saliva from a rabid dog."

"A 13-year-old boy and an amateur archaeologist have unearthed a “significant” trove in Germany which may have belonged to the Danish king Harald Bluetooth who brought Christianity to Denmark... Braided necklaces, pearls, brooches, a Thor’s hammer, rings and up to 600 chipped coins were found, including more than 100 that date back to Bluetooth’s era..."

How to make a fiberoptic "star ceiling" in a child's bedroom.  (or your own)

"Turks have reacted with undisguised glee to what many have described as an official – and certainly long overdue – confession from Stockholm that Sweden’s signature national dish [Swedish meatballs] is, in fact, Turkish."

The modern counterpart of pirate radio stations is the streaming of music nonstop on YouTube channels.

LifeProTip:LPT: "If you ever visit somewhere beautiful, stop and have a snack. Take a moment to really focus on the taste and smell of the food, then focus on your surroundings. Anytime you have that food or drink again you can close your eyes and it will take you back there."

Have you noticed something missing? Ever since OS X Lion, your Mac has been hiding the Library folder... The user's Library has long been a go-to location for troubleshooting issues with individual applications or components shared by multiple applications. If you haven't heard the refrain "Delete the application's plist," you either haven't been using a Mac for very long, or you've been lucky enough not to experience an application behaving badly. It's not clear why Apple decided to hide the user's Library folder, but there are multiple ways to get it back; two provided by Apple (depending on the version of OS X you are using) and one by the underlying file system. The method to use depends on whether you want permanent access to the Library folder, or only when you need to go there.

An extended obituary for Dr. Donald Seldin - one of the most remarkable teachers I ever encountered.

Facial distortion by "selfies" is causing people to seek unnecessary nose jobs.

When your downstairs neighbor installs a new chandelier.

The embedded images today come from Rennert's Gallery of vintage posters (21 pages of them at the link!)


  1. This might interest you re sea fishing.
    best wishes another phil

  2. The income inequality article is worth reading, no matter where you are politically. Lots of data to sift through.

    One issue I take with it, however, is the definition of poverty being defined as, "Living with an equivalised post-tax-and-transfer income of less than 50% of the national annual median equivalised post-tax and transfer income."

    So if we waved a magic wand, and tripled the real income of everyone in the USA and waved the same magic wand to keep inflation stagnant, we'd still have the same number of people in poverty.

    If I understand that correctly, then the definition of poverty needs to be updated.

    1. Sorry for the delay in responding, Roy. It seems to me the reason they have defined poverty that way is to compare poverty between countries. Obviously the comparison would be awkward if based on income or net worth, because for example residents of Nigeria might consider "poverty" in America to be luxury. So the study defines poverty as a certain % of the population below a certain level.

      It would be like defining the shortest basketball players in the NBA as being less than x% of the average. Obviously they would not be "short", and if you waved that magic wand and made all the basketball players 4" taller, you would still have (approximately) the same number of "short" ones.

      Defining poverty the way they do allows them to draw distribution curves and see what imbalances exist in which countries.

  3. as you know, ramen noodles are folded over. you can insert a thin knife into the open end of the fold and pry the ramen apart into two 'slices'. put some peanut butter and marmalade on each slice, and, enjoy crunchy goodness with your cup of coffee. cream cheese is also good instead of peanut butter. cranberry sauce is also a good sub for marmalade.


  4. The "chandelier" picture obviously made me think of this... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFuYIi5-igc


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