09 December 2019

Two mashups of the movies of 2019 - updated

Enjoyable even when you haven't seen the movies, which are listed (with time citations) here.  As always, I recommend clicking the fullscreen icon for best viewing.

Reposted from earlier this week to add an even better (IMHO) mashup:

I always recommend clicking the fullscreen icon in the LR corner for videos like these.

List of the movies used for the video clips and the voiceovers.  The operatic aria was familiar.  Most of the film clips were new to me, so I had to look them up; interesting how many come from movies that were panned or poorly received by the public.

Previously: A Sleepy Skunk mashup for the movies of 2017.  And for the movies of 2013.

Fix the dam infrastructure! - updated

Thousands of people in the U.S. may be at risk from dams that are rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition. An AP analysis found 1,688 dams in these conditions are high hazard, meaning their failure can cause human death.
An Associated Press interactive graphic shows the location of dangerous dams in the United States.  My part of the country doesn't have many, but my old stomping grounds back in Kentucky and Indiana are just riddled with them.

Note the graphic is interactive, so not only can you zoom to your area, but you can hover the mouse for the information shown in the top image.

I am so very, very tired of this bullshit.  American politicians have been kicking the can down the road for way too many election cycles.  Someone has to raise taxes and fix these things.  Maybe it will require electing a Socialist to get these problems corrected.

Reposted from just a month ago to add new information and a different perspective.   The source I originally cited was picked up by our local Wisconsin State Journal, which then posted an article about the dams at risk in the state of Wisconsin.

We've had significant problems, because in recent years alterations in the climate have resulted in multiple hundred-year flooding events, some of which washed out local dams, exacerbating the flooding damage:

When I wrote this original post for TYWKIWDBI, I concluded with a brief rant about elected officials who are reluctant to increase taxes to pay for upgrades (or basic maintenance) to infrastructure.  What I have now learned from the Wisconsin State Journal article is that federal, state, and local governments are not solely to blame, because many of the at-risk dams in Wisconsin were privately built.
Wisconsin has only six dams considered a risk to human safety that are in poor condition, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. Even so, eight dams in the state were washed out by record-setting rainfalls last year...

The association estimates it would take more than $70 billion to repair and modernize the nation’s more than 90,000 dams. But unlike much other infrastructure, most U.S. dams are privately owned. That makes it difficult for regulators to require improvements from operators who are unable or unwilling to pay the steep costs.

“Most people have no clue about the vulnerabilities when they live downstream from these private dams,” said Craig Fugate, a former administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “When they fail, they don’t fail with warning. They just fail, and suddenly you can find yourself in a situation where you have a wall of water and debris racing toward your house with very little time, if any, to get out.”..

All eight dams [Wisconsin dams that failed] were in fair or satisfactory condition, according to the DNR.
They all failed during extreme rain events,” said Tanya Lourigan, state dam safety engineer for the Wisconsin DNR. “They don’t have a history of being in poor condition and being neglected.”
Micheel said the historic rainfall revealed a design flaw in the dams, which are highest in the center. When spillways can’t keep up and water overtops the dam, that slope focused the rushing water toward one side of the dam, where it quickly ate into the hillside.
Investigations showed that the clay structures themselves held, but the sandstone they were attached to gave way. “They did their job for 50 years,” Micheel said. “Nobody ever envisioned them overtopping. The overtopping showed the weakness.”..

One of the goals is to install weather monitoring stations and warning systems. Another is to re-evaluate the 100-year floodplains based on current land use and rainfall patterns and how best to manage them.
“We need to change what we’re doing here,” Micheel said. “It isn’t going away.”
Mea culpa for jumping to conclusions (it's one of the few forms of exercise that bloggers get).

When your sperm carries another man's DNA

Excerpts from an absolutely fascinating report in the New York Times:
Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with...

But four years after his lifesaving procedure, it was not only Mr. Long’s blood that was affected. Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” he said...

Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA. The word takes its name from a fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology composed of lion, goat and serpent parts. Doctors and forensic scientists have long known that certain medical procedures turn people into chimeras, but where exactly a donor’s DNA shows up — beyond blood — has rarely been studied with criminal applications in mind...

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as they gather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two...

In 2004, investigators in Alaska uploaded a DNA profile extracted from semen to a criminal DNA database. It matched a potential suspect. But there was a problem: The man had been in prison at the time of the assault. It turned out that he had received a bone marrow transplant. The donor, his brother, was eventually convicted...

In 2008, he was trying to identify the victim of a traffic accident for the National Forensic Service in Seoul, South Korea. Blood showed that the individual was female. But the body appeared to be male, which was confirmed by DNA in a kidney, but not in the spleen or the lung, which contained male and female DNA. Eventually, he figured out that the victim had received a bone marrow transplant from his daughter.
More worth reading at the link.

For the liberal/progressive readers

Comments closed.  Moving on to other things...

Cityscape, Gdansk

Via the Europe subreddit, where I found this observation:
"Parts of the historic old city of Gdańsk, which had suffered large-scale destruction during the war, were rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. The reconstruction was not tied to the city's pre-war appearance, but instead was politically motivated as a means of culturally cleansing and destroying all traces of German influence from the city. Any traces of German tradition were ignored, suppressed, or regarded as "Prussian barbarism" only worthy of demolition, while Flemish/Dutch, Italian and French influences were used to replace the historically accurate Germanic architecture which the city was built upon since the 14th century."
And btw, why is it called a citySCAPE?
Abstracted from landscape, the suffix representing Middle Dutch -schap (“-ship”), from Old Dutch -skap (“-ship”), from Proto-Germanic *-skapiz (“-ship”), from *skapaz (“shape, form”). Cognate with Modern Dutch -schap (“-ship”), German -schaft (“-ship”), Swedish -skap (“-ship”), Old English -sceap, -scipe (“-ship”).  
The root words similar to those for shape.

Rethinking the "map of life"

From an interesting article in the Washington Post:
It’s time to get serious about a major redesign of life. Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them all on at the end. Only old age got longer.

As a result, most people are anxious about the prospect of living for a century. Asked about aspirations for living to 100, typical responses are “I hope I don’t outlive my money” or “I hope I don’t get dementia.”..

Long lives are not the problem. The problem is living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have.
Retirements that span four decades are unattainable for most individuals and governments; education that ends in the early 20s is ill-suited for longer working lives; and social norms that dictate intergenerational responsibilities between parents and young children fail to address families that include four or five living generations...

We agreed that longevity demands rethinking of all stages of life, not just old age. To thrive in an age of rapid knowledge transfer, children not only need reading, math and computer literacy, but they also need to learn to think creatively and not hold on to “facts” too tightly. They’ll need to find joy in unlearning and relearning. Teens could take breaks from high school and take internships in workplaces that intrigue them. Education wouldn’t end in youth but rather be ever-present and take many forms outside of classrooms, from micro-degrees to traveling the world...

Financing longevity requires major rethinking. Rather than saving ever-larger pots of money for the end of life, we could pool risks in new ways.
No answers at the link, but some thought-provoking observations.  It's too late for me.  Save yourself.

About that top-secret windowless skyscraper

Recycling Christmas cards

Before my elderly mother developed dementia, she lived for 25 years in an apartment complex for active seniors.  Among the amenities available was a "crafts" room typically used by a group of ladies creating quilts.  Before and after the winter holiday season however, the tables and shelves were used to recycle Christmas cards.

There are two images embedded above.  The top one is a scan of the back and front of a recycled card; the one below shows the inside.  Immediately apparent is the absence of any commercial greeting or any manufacturer's name, because the cards were created by cutting the front from a used card and gluing it to a piece of medium-weight construction paper.  Blank envelopes were purchased commercially using proceeds from the sale of the recycled cards (IIRC, about 10-25c per card).

I always viewed this as a beautiful win-win-win situation.  Residents of the facility reluctant to dispose of family cards as waste were not shy about offering them a second life.  The residents were generally on fixed incomes (most of which was used to afford living there) so they benefited from having inexpensive cards to purchase, and the blank inside not only avoided the mindless drivel often printed there, but also allowed users more space to write meaningful messages to family and friends.  And finally the activity of creating cards and selling them was an inducement for solitary elderly people to get out of their units and interact with other residents.

This sort of thing should be done more often.

06 December 2019

How to tease your dog

Very few videos on the web cause me to literally "laugh out loud."  This one did. With a hat tip for the via to Miss Cellania at Neatorama.

Addendum:  I just reviewed some of TYWKIWDBI's statistics and found that this video I posted back in 2011 has had the most views of all 16,000+ posts on the blog.  So I think it's worth a repost...

The "Up" series - updated

(2012 post):  I'm surprised I haven't blogged this subject before, because it's a truly remarkable series of movies, but today I happened across a comment that 56 Up will soon be released.  For those unfamiliar with the movies, here is the Wikipedia entry:
The Up Series is a series of documentary films produced by Granada Television that have followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old. The documentary has had seven episodes spanning 49 years (one episode every seven years) and the documentary has been broadcast on both ITV and BBC... The children were selected to represent the range of socio-economic backgrounds in Britain at that time, with the explicit assumption that each child's social class predetermines their future...

The premise of the film was taken from the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man", which is based on a quotation by Ignatius Loyola...

The series has received extraordinary praise over the years, the epitome of which may be Roger Ebert's comments that it is "an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium", that the films "penetrate to the central mystery of life", and that the series is among his top ten films of all time. Attempts have been made to repeat the series with subjects in the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan, and South Africa. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted for by industry professionals, 28 Up was placed 26th. The series has also been satirised; The Simpsons' 2007 episode "Springfield Up" is narrated by an Apted-like filmmaker who depicts the past and current lives of a group of Springfield residents he has revisited every eight years.
I have found the films individually to be of varying quality; when I first viewed Seven Up, I rated it 2+ (scale 0-4), but by the time I got to 49 Up, I rated it 3.5.  One difficulty with viewing the series in a short period of time is that they were designed to be viewed 7 years apart, so each one spends significant time reviewing the past history of each character, which makes viewing a bit tedious if you've just seen the other movies.

56 Up is expected to have its broadcast premier (presumably on BBC or ITV) in mid-May.  If you are a newbie and are interested, I would suggest getting Seven Up and perhaps one of the others (maybe 49 Up) from the library to view as background material.

If you've watched the series, feel free to offer your own thoughts in the Comments.

Update: Reposted from last month to add a link to a Telegraph photo gallery showing the participants in the movie series, as for example shown here:

1. Neil Hughes
District councillor
In 1964 he was an enchanting Liverpool boy who wanted to be an astronaut. Tragically, in 28 Up Neil was found homeless and in a bad mental state. Yet he surprised viewers when he reappeared as a Liberal Democrat councillor in Hackney in 42 Up. In a heart-rending twist, Bruce Balden, another Up participant, had helped Neil on his road to recovery. 
The others are at the link.

Reposted from 2012 to add the trailer for 63 Up:

Your tax money was spent on this

I'll close comments.  Res ipsa loquitur.

World's oldest extant basketball court (1893, Paris)

Via Reddit, where the discussion thread mentions one in New Brunswick of the same age.

Unrecognized esophageal intubations

I couldn't begin to count how many hundreds of intubations I performed in 30+ years.  Anyone who attempts tracheal intubation understands that inadvertent intubation of the esophagus can occur - but it should never remain unrecognized.  An article in ProPublica provides some distressing information in that regard:
In the summer of 2018, Dr. Nick Asselin was doing research on cardiac arrests in Rhode Island when he made a horrifying discovery.  Hospital records showed patients had been arriving by ambulance with misplaced breathing tubes, sending air into their stomachs instead of their lungs, essentially suffocating them. At first, he said, there were four cases, then seven. More trickled in.

By the time Asselin presented his findings to a state panel in mid-March, he’d identified 11 patients with so-called esophageal intubations that had gone unrecognized by EMS providers over the previous 2 ½ years. All 11 had died.

Jason M. Rhodes, the state Health Department’s EMS chief, recommended a way to tackle the problem that aligned with national standards: restricting the practice of placing those tubes to paramedics, the most highly trained EMS providers. To Asselin and his colleagues at Brown University’s Department of Emergency Medicine, that approach made sense. Rhode Island is the only state in New England, and among a minority nationally, that allows non-paramedics to intubate patients.

But a coalition of Rhode Island’s EMS practitioners, municipal fire chiefs and a city mayor pushed back. They said the “ET tube,” as it’s known, saves lives. Taking it away, as one fire chief put it, “would be a sin.” A lobbyist for the firefighters union lambasted the doctors for not consulting more of its members before proposing such changes, saying, “We’re the experts ... not the doctors!”
The article is a discouraging longread detailing how the arguments over deciding best practice deteriorated into a turf battle. 

Photo credit Kayana Szymczak for ProPublica.

Bottles on the seashore: deathtraps for hermit crabs

It seems one can't browse the 'net these days without finding yet another way that humans are devastating the natural world.  When a hermit crab climbs into a bottle, the surface may be too slippery for it to climb back out.  This report from the Washington Post:
Many of the bottles, cans and containers were not empty. Scores of hermit crabs, mostly dead, were trapped inside... They estimate 570,000 of the crabs have been killed on Cocos, which is composed of 27 islands, and that 61,000 more have died in a similar fashion on Henderson Island, located more than 8,000 miles away...

When a hermit crab dies, it emits a chemical signal to let others know that a potential shell has become available, Bond explained. Thus, a crab that dies after trying to make a home out of plastic sets off an insidious chain reaction: The smell attracts another who dies, and so on, generating an ultra-strong signal that leads even more of the crabs to an almost-certain demise.

Your choice: train horns or rubber chickens

 Via Neatorama, where there are links to the source(s).

There is also a rubber chicken cover of Toto's Africa, and of course of BoRhap.

05 December 2019

"... here in the middle of this Olive Garden."

School shootings, impeachment news, environmental degradation... TYWKIWDBI doesn't want to bury its head in the sand, but there are days when after browsing the 'net one wants a good laugh.  Herewith, from an AskReddit thread, are some of the responses to the question "Which quotation is most improved by adding 'here in the middle of this Olive Garden' on the end?"

“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them, here, in the middle of this Olive Garden.”

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti here, in the middle of this Olive Garden.”

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me here, in the middle of this Olive Garden.”

"Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side here, in the middle of this Olive Garden."

"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die here, in the middle of this Olive Garden!"

"You come to me here, and you ask me for a favor, on this; the day of my daughter's wedding here in the middle of this Olive Garden?"

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky..here, in the middle of this Olive Garden."

“As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again here, in the middle of this Olive Garden.”

04 December 2019

Word for the day: "chunter"

"In fact, it is perfectly possible to hold both views: Johnson did deliver numerous untruths, and they were allowed to lie there like fish out of their bowl, flapping on the floor until they died. Also, Marr was pretty rude; “You’re chuntering,” he said at one point, which he never would have said to Theresa May, who chuntered constantly. I suspect a bit of professional pride, Marr smarting that he is seen as softer than Neil (he is). I also think Marr did well – and maybe it is right to be rude to a prime minister who has done so much to corrode civility and trust in such a short time."
Totally new to me, and I couldn't even guess the meaning, so I turned to Wiktionary:


    (This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)


    chunter (third-person singular simple present chunters, present participle chuntering, simple past and past participle chuntered)
      1. (Britain, dialectal) To speak in a soft, indistinct manner, mutter.
    1. (Britain, dialectal) To grumble, complain.
The citation for meaning #1 is to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ("Ron continued to chunter under his breath all the way down the street"), so I thought perhaps it was her neologism, but at the bottom of the page I found this reference: “D. H. Lawrence gave a new lease on life to the verb to chunter, ‘to mutter, complain’, labelled “Obs. exc. dial”, when he used it in Sea and Sardinia (1921)".

So I had to go to my OED, where there are citations back to the 1600s, and some slight variations on the meaning ("to express discontent about trifles" and "to be sulky with impertinence.")

Clever mashup of 150+ movie titles

Reposted from 2014 because it's so clever and deserves a second viewing.

03 December 2019

Immense bezoar

A juvenile sperm whale, found on a Scottish island beach, was found to have an immense bezoar in its stomach.
The young whale had ingested a large amount of refuse, including bundles of rope, plastic cups, bags and gloves. Examiners also found packing straps and tubing inside his stomach...
The bezoar may not have been the proximate cause of the whale's death, but it is still an indictment of humans' treatment of our marine resources.

Related: Immense trichobezoar and Hairball Awareness Day (April 27).

Berea College

When I lived in Lexington, Kentucky I sometimes stopped in Berea during weekend trips to hike in the Daniel Boone National Forest.   The college there had a variety of arts and crafts festivities that were worth visiting.  Today, Berea College got a nice writeup on BBC News:
Since its inception, Berea was meant for students who could not afford college - costs were nominal, and students worked on campus to help support themselves.

And, in 1892, it stopped charging tuition entirely.

"What's unusual about Berea is that for, I'll bet 70% to 80% of our students, this is their only shot at a high-quality educational experience," says Berea President Lyle Roelofs.

More than half of Berea's incoming 2018 class had an expected family contribution of $0. The mean family income of a first-year student is less than $30,000 (£23,000). Around 70% of students are from Appalachia, where around one in five people live below the poverty line...

First, there is Berea's endowment which, as of this year, has ballooned to $1.2bn (£930m), a product of nearly 165 years of growth... The endowment is effectively safeguarded by the school's commitment to free tuition. A renovation or campus upgrade will only be approved once every student's tuition is assured.,,

The second unique feature at Berea is the labour programme, which requires each student to work on campus for at least 10 hours every week, similar to a federal work-study programme at other US universities...

And there's an obvious payoff - in 2019, 49% of Berea students graduated with zero debt, even after food, housing and other living expenses. For those that did, they held an average of $6,693 - around one quarter of the national average.

Berea is small, about 1,600 undergraduate students and - for obvious reasons - it doesn't boast many shiny amenities that could be used to sell itself at college fairs. "We don't add those kinds of appealing features that are just there to attract wealthy students to come," Roelofs says. "You know, a lazy river or a climbing wall contributes almost nothing to the educational experience"...

The campus is archetypically collegiate. Student life is narrated by church bells, the grounds punctuated by tree-lined quads. It is ensconced within 9,000 acres of the college's own green space, which drifts into hundreds of miles of forest in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky...

Many of the students mention Berea's academic rigour, a surprise for some who assumed that "tuition-free" is code for cheapened education.  
More at the link, and at Wikipedia:
Founded in 1855 by the abolitionist John Gregg Fee (1816–1901), Berea College admitted both black and white students in a fully integrated curriculum, making it the first non-segregated, coeducational college in the South and one of a handful of institutions of higher learning to admit both male and female students in the mid-19th century.

Newspaper tries to help this poor man

I suspect this news blurb (found at Bad Newspaper) is from several decades ago.  Blogged because I remember when the public was encouraged to borrow an engraving pen and use it to mark valuables with social security numbers or driver's licence numbers.   About 40 years ago I traveled to the Pacific Northwest and didn't realize until I returned home that I had left my nice Minolta camera somewhere.  At the time I was disappointed to have lost some great photos of lupine in bloom at Mount St. Helens, but as the years go by I am more concerned because that camera had my identifying data scratched onto it.

TYWKIWDBI supports Wikipedia

With dollars.  Wikipedia supports TYWKIWDBI with information.

If Wikipedia is not the best source for information, it is certainly the easiest for an aging, time-constrained blogger.  TYWKIWDBI does not maintain a "tip jar."  In lieu of such, consider contributing to Wikipedia or The Guardian.

02 December 2019

I wonder if I've missed anything

New acquaintances are sometimes startled if they learn that I've never seen a single episode of Seinfeld.  Or The Sopranos.  Or Game of Thrones.

The images embedded in this post are screencaps from an interesting 8-minute-long video graphically depicting the most popular TV series from 1986 to 2019.  I've not seen any episodes of any of the series depicted in these screencaps.

I did watch some Cheers in the 1980s and Mad Men in 2007 and House of Cards in 2013, plus Westworld and Chernobyl and some PBS series, but I seem to have missed out on the vast majority of the popular ones.  Recently, after reading some favorable reviews, I've started binge-watching Breaking Bad (way better than watching as originally broadcast because the DVDs have no commercial breaks).

Not sure whether to undertake any of the others.  Open to suggestions.  Here's the video FYI:

"Democracy depends on the consent of the losers"

I don't know where the thought-provoking title sentence originated; I found it as the lead sentence in a recent Atlantic article.
"Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed...

As partisans have drifted apart geographically and ideologically, they’ve become more hostile toward each other. In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Atlantic poll—far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion. As hostility rises, Americans’ trust in political institutions, and in one another, is declining. A study released by the Pew Research Center in July found that only about half of respondents believed their fellow citizens would accept election results no matter who won. At the fringes, distrust has become centrifugal: Right-wing activists in Texas and left-wing activists in California have revived talk of secession.

Recent research by political scientists at Vanderbilt University and other institutions has found both Republicans and Democrats distressingly willing to dehumanize members of the opposite party...

What has caused such rancor? The stresses of a globalizing, postindustrial economy. Growing economic inequality. The hyperbolizing force of social media. Geographic sorting. The demagogic provocations of the president himself. As in Murder on the Orient Express, every suspect has had a hand in the crime.

But the biggest driver might be demographic change. The United States is undergoing a transition perhaps no rich and stable democracy has ever experienced: Its historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests... 
Posted because I recently was invited to a neighbor's home for Thanksgiving, and during the post-dinner conversations I overheard a lady saying "I hope we're not heading toward a civil war."

Images from the Atlantic source.

When a cat plays"Dungeons and Dragons"

DM: ‘You come to large wooden door.’

Cat: ‘I knock at the door.’

DM: ‘An orc opens it and asks you to come in.’

Cat: ‘I do nothing.’

DM ‘He asks you to come inside again.’

Cat: ‘I do nothing.’

DM: ‘Eventually the orc tires and closes the door.’

Cat: ‘I knock at the door.’
Classic.  Other examples here, via Neatorama.

Surprising translation skills of Queen Elizabeth I

The BBC reports that Queen Elizabeth I translated Tacitus from Latin to English:
A manuscript written by Queen Elizabeth I has been discovered after lying unnoticed for more than a century.The work is a translation of a book in which the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of the benefits of monarchical rule...

He established it was written on a very specific kind of paper, which had "gained special prominence" in the Tudor Court in the 1590s." There was, however, only one translator at the Tudor court to whom a translation of Tacitus was ascribed by a contemporary, and who was using the same paper in her translations and private correspondence - the queen herself," added Dr Philo. 

A further clue was the presence of three watermarks - a rampant lion and the initials G.B with a crossbow countermark - which are also found on the paper Elizabeth I used in her personal correspondence.

But the clinching argument was the handwriting. The translation was copied by one of her secretaries but it is covered in corrections and additions which match the queen's highly distinctive, indeed rather messy, hand.
Unrelated:  Queen Elizabeth does not lay 2,000 eggs a day.

A reminder of why some people choose to be vegan

A factory farm.  Image source not provided (probably PETA), via.

Word for the day: quotidian

"... I venture to suggest that egotistical little creatures like us could perhaps love our enemies and turn the other cheek—if we received some kind of divine experience. But under what circumstances might that happen? How would we improve the odds of receiving a divine pat? Let me read you what Sogyal Rinpoche says in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying:
If we look into our lives, we will see clearly how many unimportant tasks, so-called responsibilities accumulate to fill them up. . . . We tell ourselves we want to spend time on the important things of life, but there never is any time.
Even simply to get up in the morning, there is so much to do: open the window, make the bed, take a shower, brush your teeth, feed the dog or cat, do last night’s washing up, discover that you are out of sugar or coffee, go and buy them, make breakfast—the list is endless. Then, there are clothes to sort out, choose, iron, and fold up again. And what about your hair and makeup? Helpless, we watch our days fill up with telephone calls and petty projects with so many responsibilities—or shouldn’t we call them “irresponsibilities”?
It’s clear to me that we’re unlikely to have an experience of the divine while we’re dashing around, ticking things off lists, caught up in quotidian details, and pretty much unaware of our own existence. We’re not going to have the sort of attention we need for a subtler experience while it’s all being wasted on ordinary life.

So we need to be quiet..."
Above text from the writings of John Cleese, cited in Harper's (longread essay at the link).

Some details about quotidian:

Etymology: From Anglo-Norman cotidian... Latin cottīdiānus (“happening every day”)... derived from quot (“how many”) + locative form of diēs (“day”).

Definitions (adjective):
1. (medicine) Recurring every twenty-four hours...  (of symptoms, etc). [from 14th c.]
2. Happening every day; daily. [from 15th c.]
3. Having the characteristics of something which can be seen, experienced, etc, every day or very commonly; commonplace, ordinary, mundane. [from 15th c.]

 Definitions (noun):
1.  (medicine, now rare, historical) A fever which recurs every day; quotidian malaria. [from 14th c.] 2.  (Anglicanism) A daily allowance formerly paid to certain members of the clergy. [from 16th c.]
3.  (usually with definite article) Commonplace or mundane things regarded as a class. [from 20th c.]

For those interested in American history

I first purchased Margaret Leech's Reveille in Washington 1860-1865 in the 1960s, when I subscribed to the Time Reading Program.  Enjoyed it then and put it aside to reread.  First reread in 2002, then saved for a final reread "someday."  Someday arrived this past week, but I had to settle for a couple evenings of browsing, because this is a large (500+ pages) and dense book filled with information.

The editor's preface offers this tidbit:
"Of books about the Civil War there is no foreseeable end.  Since the last shot was fired, it is estimated that there has been published, on an average, one a day."
This book is different from most Civil War histories in that it does not focus on the battles per se.  Instead of the usual profusion of maps with little arrows and the endless litany of body counts, Margaret Leech wrote about the nation's capital, Washington D.C. - the life center of the endangered Union but located in essentially a southern state.  And instead of focusing intensely on General Robert E. Lee and General Grant and the other famous military leaders, she looks at the lives and contributions of noncombatants like Dorothea Dix, Louisa May Alcott, Clara Barton, Walt Whitman.  There are chapters, or large parts of chapters, detailing Washington fashion and dancing and parties, and the city as a hotbed of prostitution, tourists scavenging local battlefields for souvenirs...

... and at the White House itself as victory got near...

... and the complexities of provisioning both the Army of the Potomac and the city itself, the ravages of alcoholism, the treatment of escaped slaves as "contraband of war," the inadequacies of medical care and public health, the profligacy and odd behavior (purchasing 300 pairs of gloves in 4 months) of First Lady Mary Lincoln, and of course the theater life (especially Ford's Theater) and a profile of Booth and his abduction plot.

The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1942.  It's probably TMI for the casual reader, but for history enthusiasts it's a real treat.

30 November 2019

In defense of "ugliness"

From an essay in The Paris Review:
Ugly is also a word that carries hard moral implications; for centuries, ugliness has been associated not only with sickness and deformity but also dishonesty, violence, aggression, and bigotry. Consider the term ugly American or the repeated critique of Trump’s “ugly” acts. The word itself comes from the equally discordant-sounding ugga and uggligr, two Old Norse adjectives that mean “dreadful, fearful, aggressive.” (Other words that bloomed from the “dreadful” root include loath and loathsome.) The meaning changed only in the fourteenth century, when uglike stopped meaning “terrifying” and began to mean “unpleasant to look at.”

Even though the word ugly is now primarily used to describe the unaesthetic aspect of things rather than their deep moral fiber, it retains elements of its original meaning. Using it can shift a well-meaning aesthetic critique into the realm of moral judgment. This is unfortunate for those of us who genuinely enjoy, and celebrate, ugly things. If you, too, want to appreciate ugliness, the first thing you have to do is stop assuming that it is the inverse of beauty. We tend to talk about aesthetics as though the categories are locked in a battle: good versus evil, light versus dark. But opposites are a crutch. Beauty and ugliness do not negate each other...

Ugliness has never been the subject of much scrutiny. For the most part, artists and thinkers have treated ugliness as an immutable category, filled with things they simply didn’t like. These included dangerous landscapes, people with disabilities, and objects that showed signs of too much use. When survival was a number one priority, people viewed anything potentially threatening as ugly. And for the most part, ugly works, particularly pieces that were unintentionally ugly, were forgotten to history.

As a result, the most significant ugly works created before the nineteenth century were intentionally ugly, created by technically skilled painters who decided, for whatever reason, to depict an ugly subject. Often, ugly art was created as a warning. There but for the grace of God go I, screams the gargoyle clinging to a medieval facade...
There's much more to read at the source link, the focus of which is on ugliness in the world of art.  I was most interested in the lady pictured in the image embedded above:
Quentin Matsys’s 1513 painting A Grotesque Old Woman can be located in this same tradition of grotesques. Known more commonly as The Ugly Duchess, this work shows a woman in a tight bodice and regal headdress. “The sitter is now diagnosed as suffering from Paget’s Disease,” Stephen Bayley explains in his 2011 treatise Ugly. Despite the fact that we now “know better” than to gawk at the suffering of others, Bayley claims there is a “magnificent absurdity” to this painting’s popularity. It is, he notes, “one of the most popular postcards sold in London’s National Gallery Shop.”
I spent a career dealing with and teaching about disease.   It is unutterably sad how an uninformed public will reflexly interpret variations in the human body as being shameful or wicked.

Related: Banjo goiter, Don't be embarrassed by a colostomy bag, Empowering amputees, Post-mastectomy tattoos, Sturge-Weber syndrome, Embrace your birthmarks, Movie villain dermatology, A man "comes out" regarding his cleft hand.

Image via Madame Jujujive's always interesting Everlasting Blort.

"Where the sun don't shine" (normally...)

Instagram influencers are promoting "perineum sunning" as a health practice.
“In a mere 30 seconds of sunlight on your butthole, you will receive more energy from this electric node than you would in an entire day being outside with your clothes on,” says an influencer, who goes by Ra of Earth. In a viral video that has racked up more than 35,000 views, he gestures toward the sun as three naked men lie down, point their backsides to the sky and make sounds of pleasure.

“[Thirty] seconds of direct sunlight injection to the anal orifice is equivalent to being outside in the sun all day!”
You can read more about this in the New York Post.

Addendumcomplication reported (anal tissue is very sensitive to sunburn)

Gamer's library

This is said to be an "entire Playstation 2 library."  It was purchased for $11,000.

Teens convicted of exploiting themselves

As reported in The Guardian:
A teenage boy in North Carolina has been prosecuted for having nude pictures of himself on his own mobile phone. The young man, who is now 17 but was 16 at the time the photos were discovered, had to strike a plea deal to avoid potentially going to jail and being registered as a sex offender.

Experts condemned the case as ludicrous. The boy was, however, punished by the courts, and had to agree to be subject to warrantless searches by law enforcement for a year, in addition to other penalties.

The young man was also named in the media and suffered a suspension as quarterback of his high school football team while the case was being resolved.

[redacted], of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was prosecuted as an adult under federal child pornography felony laws, for sexually exploiting a minor. The minor was himself...

[redacted] was charged with four counts of making and possessing images of himself and one count of possessing a naked image of his 16-year-old girlfriend.

His girlfriend, [redacted], took a plea deal after being prosecuted on similar charges for having naked, suggestive pictures of herself on her cellphone.

While the pictures were technically illegal, actual sex would not be – the age of consent for sexual intercourse in North Carolina is 16...

He was prosecuted for having his own and his girlfriend’s image, despite them not having been shared further...

The legal bind came because the two were over 16 and so could be charged as adults in North Carolina, as is common with some felonies – but the crimes they were being charged with related to laws against sexually exploiting minors.

Each was therefore simultaneously the adult perpetrator who is considered a predator and the minor victim who needs protecting by the law...

“There are about 10 or 12 mostly conservative states where they will prosecute kids for this,” said Lane, “and it’s a kind of moral values thing – they are trying to make an example of them because it’s believed to be inappropriate behaviour.

"Devil's corkscrews" explained

An article at Smithsonian explains the history and science behind the unusual trace fossils known colloquially as "devil's corkscrews."
One of the most unusual fossils ever to be found are strange tall structures recovered across Nebraska, primarily in the state’s northwestern badlands and in neighboring parts of Wyoming. Known locally as Devil’s Corkscrews, each structure is the infilling of a left- or right-handed spiral or helix that can extend up to seven feet into the ground. At the deep end of the spiral, a tunnel extends sideways and up at an angle. These structures became exposed by weathering of the soft rock enclosing them on the sides of bluffs or ravines. They mainly occur in the fine-grained sandstones of the Harrison Formation, which dates from the Miocene epoch and are about 20 to 23 million years old...
Martin and Bennett found that the incisor teeth of the extinct beaver Palaeocastor were a perfect match for the grooves on the infillings of the Devil’s Corkscrews. These tooth marks affirmed that they were, in fact, burrows, spiraling tunnels that the beaver Palaeocastor built mainly by excavating the soil with left- and right-handed strokes of its large, flat incisors. The animal also left claw marks, but they tended to be confined to the sides and bottom of the burrows. The initial burrow extended down as a tightly coiled spiral. At the bottom, the beaver started digging upwards at an angle of up to 30 degrees to create a chamber for itself. This portion of the burrow sometimes extended up to 15 feet. 
More at Smithsonian.

President Eisenhower's farewell address (1961)

Wikipedia summary.

Best known for his precient comments on the military-industrial complex, the speech also cautions against mortgaging the future of our grandchildren for immediate gains:
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
Fulltext here.

Related:  His Republican administration imposed a 91% marginal tax rate on millionaires, and in 1963 he opined that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unnecessary.

27 November 2019

The Brassica cousins

I knew they were related; didn't know they were selected in this fashion.  Interesting.  via.

Crocheted afghan

Via the confusing perspective subreddit.

Tarring and feathering

Tarring and feathering is a form of public torture and humiliation used to enforce unofficial justice or revenge. It was used in feudal Europe and its colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American frontier, mostly as a type of mob vengeance. The victim would be stripped naked, or stripped to the waist. Wood tar (sometimes hot) was then either poured or painted onto the person while they were immobilized. Then the victim either had feathers thrown on them or was rolled around on a pile of feathers so that they stuck to the tar. ..

The earliest mention of the punishment appears in orders that Richard I of England issued to his navy on starting for the Holy Land in 1189. "Concerning the lawes and ordinances appointed by King Richard for his navie the forme thereof was this ... item, a thiefe or felon that hath stolen, being lawfully convicted, shal have his head shorne, and boyling pitch poured upon his head, and feathers or downe strawed upon the same whereby he may be knowen, and so at the first landing-place they shall come to, there to be cast up" (transcript of original statute in Hakluyt's Voyages, ii. 21).

A later instance of this penalty appears in Notes and Queries (series 4, vol. v), which quotes James Howell writing in Madrid in 1623 of the "boisterous Bishop of Halberstadt ... having taken a place where there were two monasteries of nuns and friars, he caused divers feather beds to be ripped, and all the feathers thrown into a great hall, whither the nuns and friars were thrust naked with their bodies oiled and pitched and to tumble among these feathers, which makes them here (Madrid) presage him an ill-death."..
Composite image adapted from the originals at Wikipedia, whence also the text.

Comedic juggler

Another performance

Bar graph of the day

Apart from the semantic non sequitur, it's curious how the shape of the bars in the graph turn out to be reflective of the content of the question (yes is vertical, no is horizontal).

Image tweaked from the original at Bad Newspaper.

Bet you can't guess what city this is

Photo via the Pics subreddit, where I found these comments:
"the skyscrapers are part of a smallish new financial district in the works. Moscow itself is very cool IMO - its a very old city (established c. 12th century) and has been redone many times, so you can see the different time periods depending where you go. Moscow city proper used to be considered within the MKAD circular highway that does a loop around the entire city and is usually completely congested, but was recently expanded to include most of the surrounding "oblast'". Towards the outer part of the MKAD, you have your "sleeping regions" - lots of soviet-era apartment blocks with some newer buildings, as well as "mega-malls" dotted around here and there. The interesting part here is that the apartments aren't flush with each other like in cities such as New York, most are free standing and there is lots of greenspace (or highway) in between. In that sense moscow is very "spread out" - lots of parks, from community gardens to large wildernesses (the North-eastern part of moscow is one very large forest/park called Elk Island). Parks are becoming a bigger deal in moscow, the city has been renovating and generally adding cool stuff to the city parks. There is the VDNKh, which used to be the USSR's national exposition, with pavilions for each republic, as well as dozens showing off everything from space tech to agriculture and farming. Today, it is still very much active, with many permanent as well as temporary exhibits. There is also a real-life Vostok rocket near the center. Beyond that, there is the riverfront park, which stretches along the moscow river for quite a while. There is Vorobievie Gori, and krilatiskie holmi, as well as many other university parks and lakes and promenades and shit. Biking is actually a very good way of getting around if you know the way - you can bike a good distance around the city without ever leaving a park for long.

Closer to the center, the city actually grows "shorter". This is the older part of the city - the buildings are generally pre-soviet except for a few government buildings. Here you have the arbat - a pedestrian avenue with shops and stuff in the middle of moscow. You have the kremlin of course, the big theater, the red square, as well as many other historical buildings such as pushkin's home, etc. In general, moscow is a pretty unique city - unfortunately its pretty large as well, so getting around usually means the metro or traffic. There are a ton of museums, from war to art to archaeology. There are lots of parks as I mentioned before, as well as grandiose soviet and pre-soviet monuments and some neat architecture too. I would recommend a visit for sure, in my opinion its one of the coolest cities I've been."
"This is an exceptional part of the city though, where most of the skyscrapers are. Kinda like Canary Wharf in London or La Defense in Paris. Other than that, there are only a handful of "Stalin's High-risers" around the town (one of which is home to Moscow State University)."
"It's big. Very, very, very big. Helsinki, it's population and everything in it would be an outer suburb. Moscow is bigger than London. The part in this photo is the CBD area, and a very, very, very small part of the city. Actually, Moscow doesn't have much of a cityscape view like most other big cities. The Kremlin and St Basil's is pretty much what springs to mind, but what it actually is, is an absolutely beautiful place in the world with many enormous parks, museums, churches and architecture. You can't capture it all in just one scene. You should definitely visit."

Is cursive writing doomed? - updated

From an op-ed piece in the New York Times:
Districts and states should not mandate the teaching of cursive. Cursive should be allowed to die. In fact, it's already dying, despite having been taught for decades. Very small proportions of adults use cursive for their day-to-day writing. Much of our communication is done on a keyboard, and the rest is done with print.

Additionally, there is little compelling research to suggest the teaching of cursive positively affects other student skills enough to merit its teaching. While both research and common sense indicate students should be taught some form of penmanship, there is simply no need to teach students both print and cursive...

Given these realities, teachers would be better off focusing on the skills and knowledge that will impact student success in the future. These include printing and typing, but not cursive. As we have done with the abacus and the slide rule, it is time to retire the teaching of cursive. The writing is on the wall.
Not only did I learn cursive, I learned the abacus and the slide rule as well.  Sigh...

Image from Wikipedia, where I also found these interesting tidbits:
While the terms cursive or script are popular in the United States for describing this style of writing the Latin script, this term is rarely used elsewhere.

The origin of the cursive method is associated with practical advantages of writing speed and infrequent pen lifting to accommodate the limitations of the quill. Quills are fragile, easily broken, and will spatter unless used properly. Steel dip pens followed quills; they were sturdier, but still had some limitations.

The term cursive derives from the 18th century French cursif from Medieval Latin cursivus, which means literally running. This term in turn derives from Latin currere ("to run, hasten")

In the Classical Arabic script, letters of any given word are joined to one another by a continuous flowing line. This flowing script inspired the cursive of Medieval Latin, which in turn developed into the longhand script of English [embed at right]

Cursive handwriting developed into something approximating its current form from the 17th century, but its use was neither uniform, nor standardized either in England itself or elsewhere in the British Empire.

In 2012, the American states of Indiana and Hawaii announced that their schools will no longer be required to teach cursive (but will still be permitted to), and instead will be required to teach "keyboard proficiency".
I'm reposting this rather popular post from 2013 to add the following update about the cursive debate arriving in Wisconsin:
A bipartisan bill requiring all schools to teach cursive writing has been estimated to cost as much as $6 million, but not all supporters of the proposed mandate think the state should help foot the bill. While members of the Senate Committee on Education on Tuesday agreed with the value of learning cursive writing skills, some raised concern that the bill — which does not include funding to public or private schools to offset the cost of implementation — would provide Wisconsin schools with yet another unfunded mandate...
A Department of Administration fiscal estimate for implementing a statewide cursive program projects the per-student cost at $10 to $35 a year and the per-teacher cost at $25 to $160 annually...

Dan Rossmiller, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said in a letter to committee members that the association generally opposes any unfunded mandates on schools.
Achieving mastery of cursive writing can take an “enormous amount of instructional time,” Rossmiller said in the letter.
“In a world that is increasingly moving away from paper communications toward digital and electronic communications, we question the value of spending a significant portion of instructional time in third or fourth grade on cursive writing,” Rossmiller said in the letter.
When I originally posted this topic, the cost of teaching cursive was not considered either in the post itself or in the numerous comments.

I also shared the above links with an old classmate of mine whose career was in education.  His response: "Teaching cursive over the course of several years adds up to a lot of time -- what do we replace/ignore in elementary schools to make the time available?... One of the big problems I have with education law in every state is that it is written by people who, for the most part, have no knowledge of educational best practices... [re] terms like proficiency and mastery in reference to kids "passing" cursive. What do those words even mean?"

Related: Russian cursive looks like scribbles.

23 November 2019

Divertimento #170

I really need to do a general linkfest, but these gifs are easier to dispose of with single sentences.  Found these in the past month...
Dust on a bus seat.
Peeling a pineapple and removing its nipples.
Mind-numbing work.
Brazen theft of a iPad.
Mother beats child in elevator [warning: not safe for life]
An engagement ring crafted out of nail clippings.
Something to do next time it snows.
Bizarre nail art.
Nut harvest (almonds, IIRC)
Oddly satisfying shadow movement on a pair of escalators.

Nature and Science
Time lapse of a blizzard.
Phytoplankton bioluminescence in the Maldives.
The orbits of Venus and the Earth.
Planetary rotation rates and axial tilts.
An illustration of the "Mould effect".
Baking soda and tinfoil remove silver tarnish.
Robotic microsurgery.
Not sure how to describe this.
Halo traction for scoliosis.
Sponge pumping revealed with a bio-safe dye.
Immediate blue oxidation of a mushroom.
Visualization of a supernova.

Build a bed extension so there's room for your dog.
A veiled chameleon is born.
Two hamsters in a wheel.
Dog senses presence of fetus.
Why jaguars are at the top of the food chain.
Razor fish hides.
A deer sneezes.
Budgies like to shower.
Beluga fetches a ball.
Live webcams at Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Flame Leg Millipede.
Cormorants harvest remoras off whale sharks.
Deer vs. python (python wins).
Zebra drowning the offspring of a rival male.

Teslas have external cameras.
How not to feed the seagulls.

How to fix a detached zipper using a fork.
People (and dog) not injured when tree fell on house.
Slice a sponge before cleaning a window track.
Amazing dropkick.
Bioluminescent jellyfish Halloween costume.
Trick or treat on a rainy night.
Elaborately dyed hair.
Cutting a tangerine.
Nice parlor trick.
Cat prevents baby from falling down stairs.
Zipline ride in the Philippines.
Add engine oil by pouring with the dipstick in place.
Sandbag filler.
Moving firewood into the basement.
All of the dots move in straight lines.

Sports and Athleticism
World-record fastest 15-meter wall climbEducational video on this topic.
Winners pose for a photo on the medallion podium.

Halloween decoration gets called away.
A boy gets a dog.
Dogs and cats jump around.
Girl learns she will have a baby sister.
Tucking in your best friend at bedtime.
Homeless man gets a new jacket.  Perhaps a repost, but worth revisiting.
Daddy's home!

The embedded images are selections from a book about cat ladders in Switzerland, via Colossal.  Additional photos at the link.
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