31 January 2019

"Les Gardiennes" (The Guardians, 2017)

I can unreservedly recommend this movie.  This is the 2017 French movie, not to be confused with the unrelated superhero and action movies that share the noun (probably best searched using the French word).

This is a war movie, but the antithesis of most war movies in that there are no battlefront scenes (the brief machine-gun segment in the trailer is part of a dream).  And there is very little "action," and a refreshingly minimal amount of dialogue.  It's closer to a tranche du vie (slice of life) portrayal of what life was like for the women left behind, guarding the homestead and a way of life, during the madness of WWI.

Beautiful cinematography, and a view of life on a farm two generations ago for those of you who have such a heritage in your family.

The upper embed is the French trailer; the lower, slightly different one, has English subtitles [even if you don't speak French, you don't really need the subtitles to understand what is going on].  Both reveal most of the minimal plot, but that won't spoil the viewing.  It's available from Netflix and probably your local library.

Why comments on TYWKIWDBI are curated

About a year ago I changed the format of the blog to require all comments to be screened and approved by me.  Some readers may find it annoying to realize that their comment has to be approved before it appears online, but I had to do it because of all the crap illustrated above (from the past 2-3 days).  I realize this curation slows down inter-reader dialogue, but it's necessary to preserve the quality of the blog - and my own sanity.

Introducing Ultima Thule

"Ultima Thule does look different than imaged asteroids of the inner Solar System, as it shows unusual surface texture, relatively few obvious craters, and nearly spherical lobes. Its shape is hypothesized to have formed from the coalescence of early Solar System rubble in into two objects -- Ultima and Thule -- which then spiraled together and stuck. Research will continue into understanding the origin of different surface regions on Ultima Thule, whether it has a thin atmosphere, how it obtained its red color, and what this new knowledge of the ancient Solar System tells us about the formation of our Earth."

AddendumAnalysis of subsequent images suggest that the larger of the two lobes is actually more flattened than rounded:

River horse makes an appearance

If you don't want to "wait for it," just click the progress bar to start at the 2 minute mark.  I was surprised by this happening so far from shore.  Must be a shallow river.

29 January 2019

Six flags

Photo via.

Betting on the Superbowl

A former roommate of mine from the 1970s sensibly moved west to Colorado and Nevada while I headed to the polar vortex north.  This week he sent me a clipping from his local Las Vegas newspaper detailing the incredible variety of bets that can be placed on this weekend's Superbowl.
The Westgate released its popular Super Bowl prop bets — 442 two-way props on the Patriots-Rams game and more than 1,000 betting options — and sharp bettors quickly pounced on any number they deemed off.

A steady stream of bettors — 90 percent of them sharp, according to Westgate sportsbook vice president Jay Kornegay — waited in line to place up to two $2,000 wagers apiece before going to the back of the line to do it again...
Here are some of the possibilities you can place bets on:
Coin toss heads or tails
Which team receives opening kickoff
First play from scrimmage run vs. pass
First turnover of game fumble vs interception
Will TD passes outnumber field goals
Which team uses coaches challenge first
Will there be at least one scoreless quarter
Will either team score in the final 2 minutes of the first half
Will there be a missed extra point kick
Shortest field goal will be over/under 26.5 yards...
Word for the day "prop bet" :
In gambling, a "proposition bet" (prop bet, prop, novelty, or a side bet) is a bet made regarding the occurrence or non-occurrence during a game (usually a gambling game) of an event not directly affecting the game's final outcome.

Proposition bets in sports are differentiated from the general bets for or against a particular team or regarding the total number of points scored. Traditionally, proposition bets can be made on outcomes such as the number of strikeouts a pitcher will accumulate in a baseball game, whether a non-offensive player will score in an American football game, which team will score the first points of the game, the discipline record of teams in a match, the timing of certain events, the number of specific events per team or in the entire match, realistically any statistically discrete event contained in a match or game could be bet on.

Fixing part of a match for a certain result in a proposition bet is called Spot-fixing.
Prop betting is coming to professional golf.  I'll be blogging that later this week or next.

Word for the day: fermata

This stone marking the grave of the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke depicts a whole rest beneath a fermata, marked fortissimo (an extremely long, emphatic silence).
A fermata (also known as a hold, pause, colloquially a birdseye or cyclops eye, or as a grand pause when placed on a note or a rest) is a symbol of musical notation indicating that the note should be prolonged beyond the normal duration its note value would indicate. Exactly how much longer it is held is up to the discretion of the performer or conductor, but twice as long is common. It is usually printed above but can be occasionally below (when it is upside down) the note to be extended.

Agatized shell

LOTS more examples viewable with a simple Google Image search.

This photo via (original credit not given).

The "Moses Bridge"

"...the Moses Bridge (or Loopgraafbrug in the native language). This bridge looks more like a trench than the usual conception of a bridge, but it gets you across no matter how you call it. Located in the Netherlands, the fascinating bridge parts the waters surrounding a 17th century Dutch fort, allowing visitors to experience a whole new perspective of the shallow moat – too deep to march across and too shallow to boat across – that surrounds Fort de Roovere..."  
Many photos at Freshome.

This photo via the interestingasfuck subreddit.

A radical design for wedding gowns

"Men don't understand what's so special about this picture, but women know immediately."

The explanation is at Neatorama.

Anti-vaxx enabling physicians

Despite a California law passed after the 2015 Disneyland measles outbreak that got rid of the "personal belief" vaccine exemptions for children entering school, pockets of low vaccination rates have developed in the state. A number of counties are reporting rates lower than 90 percent, the number needed to achieve herd immunity, which occurs when enough people are vaccinated against an infectious disease to protect others in the community who are not.

That is likely due to a surge in medical exemptions— a doctor's note allowing a child to go to school without the required vaccinations, according to research published October in the journal Pediatrics. In some schools the medical exemption rate is as high as 20 percent, according to the California Department of Public Health.

California parents opposed to vaccinations have found a way around the law, with help from doctors willing to write medical exemptions for kids who don’t need them. The Pediatrics study found some medical exemptions were being given with inadequate justification, such as “family history of allergies and family history of autoimmune disorders.”..

The study revealed that the exemptions were being generated by doctors who don’t normally treat children and were “coming from physicians who were charging fees.”

While some doctors appeared to charge a single fee for a permanent exemption, the researchers discovered that some were giving temporary exemptions, say for three months at a time, and then charging a new fee for each additional exemption...

Richard Pan doesn’t mince his words when he talks about the doctors “selling” exemptions: “The thing we need to recognize is that many of the physicians who have broken their oath, they’re doing it for their own pocketbook. It’s not based on their expertise. They’re monetizing their license,” he told NBC News.
There are of course perfectly valid indications to not be vaccinated, primarily based on impaired host immunity (bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy).  But these doctors are gaming the system for personal profit.  More at NBC News.

Sign created for a parent with dementia

Anyone who has had a demented parent or loved one will recognize the utility of this simple intervention.

Via the pics subreddit, where the discussion thread includes many family stories.

27 January 2019

"Don't let the cat out"

I do try to minimize cat-related posts on this blog, but thought this was worth sharing.  Via.

The importance of airholes in a casket

"...a minimum of twenty 2-inch (5 cm) holes be drilled into the casket to facilitate rapid flooding and venting of air. The holes should be evenly spaced on the top (8 holes), bottom (8 holes) and head and foot ends (2 holes each) of the casket. The holes may be covered with a porous material like cloth or paper so that the remains are not visible, as long as plastic-containing adhesives like tape are not used..."
Additional guidelines at the EPA webpage with guidelines for burial at sea.  What is interesting to me is that burial at sea is permitted for anyone - not just naval/military personnel - and it need not involve a casket:
If no casket is used, EPA recommends wrapping a natural fiber shroud or sail cloth around the body and adding additional weight, such as a steel chain, to aid in rapid sinking.
You just have to go three miles offshore and follow the other guidelines (no wreaths etc, no pets, no burning Viking boat) at the link.

If anyone is looking for an inexpensive alternative to a traditional burial, this is worth considering.

A Dane makes fun of Norwegian swimming rules

Anders Lund Madsen is a professional comedian.  These supplemental notes from the uploader/subtitler:
The reason i didn't translate "Stuper" and "grunt" is because Anders is using them in the Danish sentence, and that is why there is an "Er" in the end of "stup."
The rule really means, "don't swim if you don't know how deep the water is."

Brygge = A pier (hope that is right)
Stupebrett = A Tipper

"Dytt" or "dyt" is a Danish slang word, that means hump... But in Norway it means push...
Since I'm half German (and half Norwegian), I particularly liked these lines:
"Get some friends!"
"But I'm German!"
"Then go online!"

Via Boing Boing

(Re-reposted from 2011, just for laughs).

26 January 2019

Before her frontal lobotomy

Rose Marie Kennedy was born at her parents' home in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was the third child and first daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald. She was named after her mother, and commonly called "Rosemary" or "Rosie." During her birth, the doctor was not immediately available and the nurse ordered Rose Kennedy to keep her legs closed, forcing the baby's head to stay in the birth canal for two hours. The action resulted in a harmful loss of oxygen. As Rosemary began to grow, her parents noticed she was not reaching the basic development steps an infant or a toddler normally reach at a certain month or year...

She was deemed to have an IQ between 60 and 70... Diaries written by her in the late 1930s, and published in the 1980s, reveal a young woman whose life was filled with outings to the opera, tea dances, dress fittings, and other social interests... Placid and easygoing as a child and teenager, the maturing Rosemary Kennedy became increasingly assertive and rebellious. She was also reportedly subject to violent mood changes. Some observers have since attributed this behavior to her inability to conform to siblings who were expected to perform to high standards, as well as the hormonal surges associated with puberty...

In November 1941, when Rosemary Kennedy was 23 (and hence legally an adult), doctors told Joseph P. Kennedy that a form of psychosurgery known as a lobotomy would help calm her mood swings and stop her occasional violent outbursts. He decided that his daughter should have the lobotomy performed; however, he did not inform his wife Rose of this until after the procedure was completed. Because Rosemary had been diagnosed as mentally retarded, only his consent was necessary, not hers...
"As Dr. Watts cut, Dr. Freeman asked Rosemary some questions. For example, he asked her to recite the Lord's Prayer or sing "God Bless America" or count backwards. ... . "We made an estimate on how far to cut based on how she responded." . ... . When she began to become incoherent, they stopped."
After the lobotomy, it quickly became apparent that the procedure was not successful. Kennedy's mental capacity diminished to that of a two-year-old child. She could not walk or speak intelligibly and was incontinent... After the procedure, Rosemary was immediately institutionalized... Rosemary Kennedy died from natural causes on January 7, 2005, at the Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, at the age of 86.
More details at Wikipedia.  Photo (1939) via the OldSchoolCool subreddit, where there is an informed discussion.

Offered without comment

Recitation of the Welsh alphabet

Via BoingBoing.

The death of Meriwether Lewis - updated

Some of the most interesting aspects of history are not routinely taught in schools.
Lewis got out his pistols. He loaded them and at some time during the early hours of October 11 shot himself in the head. The ball only grazed his skull.

He fell heavily to the floor. Mrs. Grinder heard him exclaim, "O Lord!"

Lewis rose, took up his other pistol, and shot himself in his breast. The ball entered and passed downward through his body, to emerge low down on his backbone.

He survived the second shot, staggered to the door of his room, and callled out, "O madam! Give me some water, and heal my wounds."

Lewis staggered outside, fell, crawled for some distance, raised himself by the side of a tree, then staggered back to his room. He scraped the bucket with a gourd for water, but the bucket was empty. He collapsed on his robes.

At first light, the terrified Mrs. Grinder sent her childern to fetch the servants. When they got to Lewis's room, they found him "busily engaged in cutting himself from head to foot" with his razor.

Lewis saw Pernier and said to him, "I have done the business my good Servant give me some water." Pernier did.

Lewis uncovered his side and showed them the second wound. He said, "I am no coward; but I am so strong, [it is] so hard to die." He said he had tried to kill himself to deprive his enemies of the pleasure and honor of doing it.

He begged the servants to take his rifle and blow out his brains, telling them not to be afraid, for he would not hurt them, and they could have all the money in his trunk.

Shortly after sunrise, his great heart stopped beating. 
Text from p. 465 of Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, which includes a discussion of possible reasons why this remarkable man ended his life in this fashion.  The background of his memorial is described as follows:
Lewis is buried today at the site of Grinder's Inn, along the Natchez Trace.  Alexander Wilson saw to preparing a proper plot and putting a fence around it.  A broken shaft, authorized by the Tennessee Legislature in 1849 as symbolic of "the violent and untimely end of a bright and glorious career," marks the spot.
Photo credit: Dels Journey.

Addendum:  Reposted from 2013 to add this information from JSTOR Daily:
Epidemiologist Reimert Thorolf Ravenholt sees the clues as pointing to an “underlying cause” of neurosyphilis paresis, or late-stage syphilis, which can lead to dementia and paralysis. In Ravenholt’s view, the preceding two years of Lewis’s “increasingly strange behavior,” including an earlier suicide attempt on the final journey to Washington, culminated in the desperate act in a remote country inn...

Ravenholt points to the mental and physiological ravages of syphilis, which he argues Lewis picked up on the expedition west. Among his eleven points of evidence: “sexual intercourse with women of the tribes by Corps members was frequently urged by the Indians and was commonplace” and “several Corps members (probably at least eight) did develop syphilis.”

Ravenhold puts forward a night in August 1805 as the likely time Lewis was infected. Lewis’s sudden interest in the topic of sexually transmitted diseases is made manifest in his journal entry of August 13, 1805: “I was anxious to learn whether these people [Shoshonis] had the venereal, and made inquiry through the interpreter and his wife.”

Ravenholt’s thesis, unsurprisingly, is controversial. A couple of responses in a later issue of the journal challenge him. One suggests that mercury, a common but highly toxic cure for venereal disease, may have been the cause of Lewis’s degeneration. Ravenholt rejoins that both syphilis and mercury could be detected in the remains.

We will likely never know the truth: The National Park Service, which has jurisdiction over Lewis’s grave, forbids the unearthing of graves on its lands.
If Tycho Brahe's remains can be unearthed and tested for mercury, there is no reason why the same could not be permitted in this case (unless the family dissents).

A tip of the blogging hat to Miss Cellania at Neatorama for locating and posting the link in the addendum.

24 January 2019

Saiga antelope

One of the endangered animals photographed by Tim Flach in this remarkable gallery.

Beware of wily coyotes

Image cropped for size from the original via BoingBoing.

All-time heat records shattered in Australia

"Temperature records have tumbled across South Australia, with the city of Adelaide experiencing its hottest day on record, as the second heatwave in as many weeks hit southern parts of Australia.
Adelaide hit 46.6C [115.9F] on Thursday afternoon, the hottest temperature recording in any Australian state capital city since records began 80 years ago... In Port Augusta, 300km north-west, an all-time record was also set, as the city hit 49.5C. [121.1 F]

In central and western Australia, local authorities were forced to carry out an emergency animal cull, shooting 2,500 camels – and potentially a further hundred feral horses – who were dying of thirst. "
This seems like an appropriate place to repost this uber-stupid tweet by some guy who doesn't comprehend what the word "global" means or what the implications are:

Ever wonder how multi-lane highways are snowplowed?

The process is nicely illustrated in this photo posted today in the Wisconsin State Journal.  It requires large, powerful trucks of course, but also an impressive degree of coordinated teamwork.  The difficulty arises because of an impenetrable concrete barrier separating the two directions of traffic (placed there to prevent catastrophic cross-overs).

Snow in the innermost lane has to be moved across three or four lanes and has to be cleared from that shoulder into a ditch.  It can't be done by one truck at a time, because that would pile the snow into the passing lane.  And the entire highway can't be done at one time, because the snow passed by 2-3 trucks would overwhelm the fourth one. 

Notice in the photo above that the trucks on the left of the photo are driving in previously-plowed lanes (as shown for the traffic going the other way).  Those central and outer lanes are done first, and then the entire team has to assemble in order to clear the snow from the innermost one.

Quite remarkable.  These snow-removal truck drivers are winter heroes here in the Midwest (even if they do sometimes leave huge solidified masses of frozen snow where your driveway meets the road...).

23 January 2019

Broadway Tower, Worcestershire

The "Saxon" tower was the brainchild of Capability Brown and designed by James Wyatt in 1794 in the form of a castle, and built for Lady Coventry in 1798–99. The tower was built on a beacon hill, where beacons were lit on special occasions. Lady Coventry wondered whether a beacon on this hill could be seen from her house in Worcester — about 22 miles (35 km) away — and sponsored the construction of the folly to find out. Indeed, the beacon could be seen clearly.
Photo credit Newton2, via Wikimedia.

The precarious finances of the average American

To me the most unsettling aspect of the month-long Federal government shutdown is the realization of how many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck.  Back in 2011 a CNN article reported that most Americans don't have the funds to cover a $1,000 emergency expense.
A majority, or 64%, of Americans don't have enough cash on hand to handle a $1,000 emergency expense, according to a survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, released on Wednesday.

Only 36% said they would tap their rainy day funds for an emergency. The rest of the 2,700 people polled said that they would have to go to other extremes to cover an unexpected expense, such as borrowing money or taking out a cash advance on a credit card...

Many respondents, 17%, said they would borrow money from friends or family. Another 17% said they would neglect other financial obligations -- like a credit card bill or mortgage payment -- in order to free up some funds.

Alternatively, 12% of the respondents said they would have to sell or pawn some assets to come up with $1,000 and 9% said they would need to take out a loan. Another 9% said they would get a cash advance from a credit card, according to the NFCC...

An earlier study by the same organization found that 30% of Americans have zero dollars in non-retirement savings.
And now, eight years later, large numbers of Americans are unable to buy food if they miss a paycheck.  The image embedded at the top is from an article this week in Quartz:
While the average American maintains an average balance of $4,560, this is highly dependent on age. Balances are relatively low for the young, about $2,340 for those under 25, but grow as people get into middle age, reaching over $6,000 for people 45-54, before falling as they get older. At the peak of a person’s earning power, typically in middle age, they are given larger credit limits from card companies.

Finally, the analysis estimated the share of people who have “revolving” credit card debt—meaning they don’t pay off their balance in full at the end of the month. Stavins found that 44% of adults have revolving credit, and these people typically have an outstanding balance of $6,600. Revolvers are generally poorer and less educated than the typical American.
It's kind of scary.

There are 8 ways to draw an "X"

The colored arrow indicates the direction of the first stroke.

According to this tweet, most Americans perform method 7 or 8, while most Brits choose 5 or 6 (no data at the link).

Via Neatorama.

22 January 2019

Gleanings from "Cosmos - A Personal Voyage"

I was entranced about 40 years ago when PBS first broadcast Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, so this year I decided to give it one final watch.  I particularly wanted to revisit his comparison of the stars to grains of sands on earth's beaches.  Here are some notes I jotted down while watching all 13 episodes:
Mankind has existed for 40,000 generations.  Humans have always viewed the stars as a metaphor for life after death, rebirth, reincarnation because of the cyclicality of the cosmos - a new moon is followed by a crescent moon, the sun rises every day, the constellations rise and fall.

There are a hundred billion galaxies containing a billion trillion stars in the observable universe.  Those galaxies are typically 300,000 light-years apart.

A handful of beach sand contains about 10,000 individual grains, which is more than the number of stars we can see on a clear night.  But the number of stars in the universe is greater than the number of grains of sand on all the beaches of the entire world. [episode 8]

The distance from earth to the center of the Milky Way is about 30,000 light-years.
The distance to the nearest other spiral galaxy is 2 million light-years.
The distance to the ost distant quasar is 8 billion light-years.

The distant galaxies are receding at a speed of 200 million kilometers per hour.

If you postulate that God created the universe, you have to ask where God came from.  If this is unanswerable, then just save a step and say the same of the universe.  Ditto for the reply that God always existed.  Then delete God and say the same for the universe.

"It is the birthright of every child to encounter the cosmos anew in every culture in every age. When this happens to us, we experience a deep sense of wonder. The most fortunate among us are guided by teachers who channel this exhilaration. We are born to delight in the world..."

We humans have set foot on another world in a place called the Sea of Tranquility, an astonishing achievement for creatures such as we, whose earliest footsteps three and one-half million years old are preserved in the volcanic ash of east Africa. We have walked far.  These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution."
It seems appropriate to close with Vangelis' "Heaven and Hell" - the theme song for Cosmos.

21 January 2019

"Small fishes serve as food for large fishes"

A report in Time asserts that "worldwide wealth inequality is out of control."
Global wealth inequality widened last year as billionaires increased their fortunes by $2.5 billion per day, anti-poverty campaigner Oxfam said in a new report.

While the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth dwindle by 11%, billionaires’ riches increased by 12%. The mega-wealthy have also become a more concentrated bunch. Last year, the top 26 wealthiest people owned $1.4 trillion, or as much as the 3.8 billion poorest people. The year before, it was the top 43 people.
The drawing above is by Peter Bruegel the Elder.  It is discussed in detail at Poemas del rio Wang:
The landscape apparently was created to be a worthy frame for the matchless prey, the Great Fish, which is being cut open by a Liliputian man with a knife far greater than himself. From the stomach and mouth of the Fish, as if the blade of the knife also cut its throat, big fish-matrioshki are pouring out, those that had been swallowed by the Fish, and which immediately before that, or already in its stomach, tried to swallow further fishes. The pieces of the prey falling into the sea are awaited and immediately swallowed by other fishes, as by the seals on the fish market, and there is even a fish that come flying in for its share. The paroxysm of this gobbling frenzy grew to the point that even the mussels try to swallow fishes, even though they would think twice at this in their natural habitat. At the bottom of the picture, in a fishing boat, an oarsman points to the spectacle to his son: ECCE, and in the Flemish-language Italic inscription at the very bottom he shares with him the basic experience of his life: Look, my son, I have known for a long time that big fish eat small fish. The same is said by the Latin legend, in hexameter: “GRANDIBUS EXIGUI SUNT PISCES PISCIBUS ESCA” – small fishes serve as food for big fishes. And a much later version of this 1557 print, published by Jan Galle, active in Antwerp between 1620 and 1670, who even adds a trilingual explanation over the image, so that nobody can misunderstand the metaphor: “OPPRESSION OF THE POOR. The rich suppress you with their power. Letter of James, 2:6.”
Lots more at that link.  And we'll close with this detail from Bosch's The Temptation of St. Anthony:

Fake amber

When you see a gecko embedded in "amber" for sale on eBay for 10 bucks, you have to figure the "amber" is fake (hornets, scorpions, butterfly specimens similarly priced at the link).  The item's description says "Manufacture: China, Chinese Factory Homegrown products for Sales", so that's probably a "disclosure," and the "amber" in the title can be defended as a color rather than a natural product.

This one is crudely done, but there are some remarkably good ones out there, as explained at Amber Pieces:
This industry dates back to the early 1900s, having its major source in New Zealand, where large amounts of Kaori Gum are located - the prime ingredient in the fabrication of fake amber. In the North Island, diggings of Kaori Gum would be performed daily, turning it into a major industry. It may be hard to imagine, but even the workers were so engaged in their activities that they formed their own newspaper called “The Gum Diggers Gazette”. If you wonder how this Kaori Gum was used as a surrogate for real amber, here is how it was done: the material would be melted down gently and carefully. Inclusions would then be placed into it, e.g. suitably colored insects which can easily be detected as fake fossils because true ancient amber fossils are colorless and monotone due to time usage..modern imitations are so close to perfection that simple analytical methods fail to differentiate between real amber and fake amber. Scientists developed the so-called FT-IR Spectroscopy test for the infallible identification of Baltic amber – succinite. Under close examination, real amber reveals its Baltic curve in spectrum coupled with gas chromatography and electron microscopic features... 
Baltic Essentials offers tips on how to spot fake amber:
You can easily rub amber with your hands or with a cloth to produce heat as well to see if it emits a tree resin smell.  There will also be an oily residue that appears on your hands after several seconds of rubbing very fast.
Real amber also has an electrostatic charge, and when rubbed it will attract to things like your clothes, hair, or dust.

In salt water, genuine amber will float while most fakes, which are denser in weight, will sink.

Authentic amber is florescent and shining UV light over it will glow pale
RelatedJurassic amber soap, Be aware of fake tanzanite, Fake gold bars (and coins) made of tungsten, Floating crinoid fossil - fake or real?

Trump clump #6

YouTube link  (hat tip to Stan B.)
"Don't give up. Don't allow it to happen. If there's a concrete wall in front of you, 
go through it, go over it, go around it, but get to the other side of that wall. 
 -Donald J. Trump

Brief introductory remarks:  Readers both on the left and the right have expressed to me a desire to read as little as possible about Donald Trump in TYWKIWDBI since he gets ubiquitous coverage elsewhere.  I agree with that sentiment, but since I use this blog as a storehouse of information, I don't want to ignore the subject matter.  So I have compromised by clustering most of the Trump-related material into "Trump clumps" that can be easily passed over with a quick swipe on a mouse.   This is the first Trump clump since September, so I think I've exhibited admirable restraint in that regard - but it also means that lots of these links are 3-4 months old.  For obvious reasons I'll close comments for this post.  Here we go...

"But to really get the feel for the Trump administration’s end, we must turn to the finest political psychologist of them all, William Shakespeare. The text is in the final act of what superstitious actors only refer to as the “Scottish play.” One of the nobles who has turned on their murderous usurper king describes Macbeth’s predicament:
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love. Now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish thief."

A Scientific American article reports on a "Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior," as a new report documents the suppression of science... "It is a damning report and required reading for anyone who values public lands, wildlife, cultural heritage, and health and safety."

A December listing by the BBC of the "revolving door at the White House," detailing all the high officials who have come and gone.   "Here is a run-down of what they did, and why they left, starting with the most recent." [27 people]

"America’s global image plummeted following the election of President Donald Trump, amid widespread opposition to his administration’s policies and a widely shared lack of confidence in his leadership. Now, as the second anniversary of Trump’s election approaches, a new 25-nation Pew Research Center survey finds that Trump’s international image remains poor, while ratings for the United States are much lower than during Barack Obama’s presidency."

The first lady appears to have flown from Joint Base Andrews outside of DC in Maryland to Palm Beach aboard a US Air Force C-32A, a modified Boeing 757, which costs $14,087 per hour to operate, according to figures supplied earlier to Quartz by the Department of Defense. The flight from DC to Palm Beach takes about 2.5 hours, for a total flight cost of $35,217.50."

In a Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbi discusses Trump's nihilism:
"A policy that not only recognizes but embraces inevitable global catastrophe is the ultimate expression of Trump’s somehow under-reported nihilism. While the press has focused in the past two years either on the president’s daily lunacies or his various scandals, the really dangerous work of Trump’s administration has gone on behind the scenes, in his systematic wreckage of the state. Implicit in this campaign of bureaucratic dismantling has been the message that pandemonium is a price Trump is very willing to pay, in service of breaking the “disaster” of government. Many of his top appointees have been distinguished by their screw-it-all mentality."
"The last surviving member of the Nuremberg trials prosecuting team has said Donald Trump committed “a crime against humanity” with the recent family separation policy."

 This tweet is real:

"Everyone knows President Donald Trump has a complicated relationship with the truth. But he flat out lied Saturday evening to justify moving forward with a campaign rally mere hours after 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Trump said that the New York Stock Exchange reopened the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when in reality it took several days for the markets to reopen... Trump’s version of history sounds pretty incredible. But it just isn’t true. Both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were closed until Monday, Sept. 17, which marked the longest closing of the markets since 1933."

 The van of a domestic terrorist:  More info about the man.

"A Florida man is facing a federal sexual assault charge after he was accused of groping a woman on a flight from Texas to New Mexico... Later, in the police vehicle, Alexander told officers that the president of the United States "says it's OK to grab women by their private parts."

Donald Trump has once again branded the mainstream media the "enemy of the people", just days after a pipe bomb was sent to CNN's offices and 11 people were shot dead at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  "There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news," the US president wrote on Twitter. "The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility & report the news accurately & fairly."

"... there’s a pair of life-size fiberglass statues [above] in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, a village in the green Chiltern Hills of southeast England. The U.S. president leers at Matilda Wormwood, the title character in the beloved Dahl novel. Matilda — hands on her hips, eyes ahead — plants herself defiantly in his way. The temporary installation is a monument to the disdain with which Trump is viewed abroad. Only 28 percent of the British public trusts the U.S. president to do the right thing in world affairs, according to recent Pew data. Elsewhere in Western Europe, the figure is even lower."

Supercut of Trump on the campaign trail in 2015-2016:

From the New York Times:
"Mr. Trump won the presidency proclaiming himself a self-made billionaire, and he has long insisted that his father, the legendary New York City builder Fred C. Trump, provided almost no financial help.

But The Times’s investigation, based on a vast trove of confidential tax returns and financial records, reveals that Mr. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father’s real estate empire, starting when he was a toddler and continuing to this day.

Much of this money came to Mr. Trump because he helped his parents dodge taxes. He and his siblings set up a sham corporation to disguise millions of dollars in gifts from their parents, records and interviews show. Records indicate that Mr. Trump helped his father take improper tax deductions worth millions more. He also helped formulate a strategy to undervalue his parents’ real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars on tax returns, sharply reducing the tax bill when those properties were transferred to him and his siblings... The reporting makes clear that in every era of Mr. Trump’s life, his finances were deeply intertwined with, and dependent on, his father’s wealth

"Three men who were convicted of plotting to bomb an apartment building that housed a mosque and dozens of Muslim Somali refugees in Kansas were encouraged by President Donald Trump's rhetoric and asked a judge for leniency in their sentencing, their attorneys said. In court documents filed this week, attorneys for Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright, say the men were influenced by Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric and Russian propaganda on social media and argue that life sentences against their clients would not deter others from committing similar crimes."

"Donald Trump‘s visit to a First World War cemetery was called off by the White House because of poor weather."   In contrast to this manAnd this one of course.  But Trump does play golf in the rain.

Trump's public schedule of activities is posted here.

Vanity Fair and Politico report that the president puts in perhaps 3 hours of work on a good day:
"Last Tuesday’s schedule, for instance, reportedly included a whopping nine hours of “Executive Time,” or triple the time that was allotted for actual work. Trump’s first commitment of the day came at 1 P.M., and while he had a 30-minute call with C.E.O.s here and a quick briefing and dinner with senior military leaders there, the rest of the day consisted of doing whatever the hell he wanted... A bulk of the president’s time last week was spent traveling to and from political rallies and campaigning on behalf of Republican candidates ahead of next Tuesday’s midterm elections. On Wednesday, which began with an 11:30 A.M. meeting with John Kelly, Trump delivered brief remarks on the opioid crisis and sat for a media interview before departing for an evening rally in Wisconsin. The rest of his day, according to his schedule, was open. Last week’s schedules are remarkably light on policy discussions. The president spent a little more than two hours of his week in policy briefings, according to the schedules, and he was scheduled to receive the President’s Daily Brief on just two of the five days reviewed."
The topic above, about Trump's negligible work load has been updated in January 2019 (video).

Dana Milbank offers the view that Donald Trump "is entering his terrible twos."
The Trump presidency turns two this month, and though we often hear the mantra “this is not normal,” what the president is doing actually is normal. For a 2-year-old... (per Benjamin Spock) The 2-year-old “has a hard time making up his mind, and then he wants to change it,” his “understanding of the world is still so limited,” and “he becomes bolder and more daring in his experiments.” “A battle of wills with a two-year-old is tiring.”“Two is a great age for whining.”  “Negativism reaches new heights and takes new forms after two.” The “two-and-a-half-year-old . . . even contradicts herself.” And the terrible twos are defined by tantrums, which, Dr. Spock wrote, “usually start around age one” — Trump was precocious — “peak around age two to three” and are worse for “children who are less flexible.” “Two-year-olds don’t play cooperatively with each other very much,” Dr. Spock wrote. “There is no point in trying to teach a two-year-old to share; he simply isn’t ready.”
The following contains NSFW language:

For those who skip videos, here are the best two lines from the one above:
Pence: "Last year alone, 17,000 individuals with criminal histories were apprehended at our southern borders."
Randy Rainbow:  "Why not hire them as senior White House officials?"
Watch these world leaders' faces when they realize that Donald Trump is mis-signing the NAFTA agreement.

When Trump welcomed George W. Bush to Blair House, located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, he and Melania traveled there in the presidential parade limousine, with a motorcade of at least seven other vehicles.  The actual distance:  250 yards.  Other presidents, including President Obama, just walked.

Trump claims to be a Christian, and has garnered immense support from Christian groups around the country.  The program for the funeral of George H.W. Bush called for those present to recite the Apostle's Creed.  "The Apostles' Creed is one of the prayers most core to Christianity. It states in a few lines the basic narrative of Jesus’s life, is the statement of faith in one God and is said daily by Christians across the globe... President Trump stood, with his hands folded in front of him, waist-high, the program in his left hand, his lips not moving. Melania Trump also did not speak, nor did she hold a program."  The Washington Post has a video of his non-participation.

 Signature (or atrial fibrillation?):

Trump blamed the California wildfires on "forest mismanagement," but California firefighters took him to task by pointing out that the wildfires were "urban interface fires" and suburban events, not forest ones.

Why candles in a gilt candelabra, for fox ache?
Not for illumination certainly.  Not to set a romantic mood.   There may have been an argument for burgers and pizza, but this is just regal splendor.

Trump's celebratory fast food dinner for the Clemson football team has been endlessly mocked...

... and parodied, but I think this photo of the condiments is the best...
... because of this comment: "If you asked me to distill Donald Trump's personality into one image, it is this." [Lincoln's silver gravyboats on a silver platter holding dipping sauce condiment packets].

[In November] President Donald Trump asserted that he had “very high levels of intelligence,” and as such, did not believe in the scientific consensus surrounding climate change in a sweeping interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday.  “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence but we’re not necessarily such believers,” said Trump, speaking to the Post’s Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker. “You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. ... As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it — not nearly like it is.”  More here.

At the G20 meeting, 19 of 20 world leaders pledged to fight climate change.  Donald Trump was the lone holdout.

So it's not surprising to read this mid-January tweet:

The title of a Vanity Fair article speaks for itself: “It Was Camelot on Steroids”: Trump, Marla, the Beach Romp, Anti-Semitism, and the Epic Battle for Mar-a-Lago"

"A former Canadian prime minister has sparked a debate about diplomatic language after she described President Donald Trump as a “motherf***er” in a tweet... Kim Campbell, who was Canada’s head of government in 1993, reacted strongly on social media to Trump being asked by a reporter what safety net there was for the workers who would not be paid due to a partial shutdown by government. When Trump said the safety net would be the physical southern border wall with Mexico, Campbell tweeted Saturday, “He really IS a motherf**ker,” CBC reported."

The single most eloquent and devastating takedown of Donald Trump's presidency I have read recently was published in Deadspin.  Some excerpts:
Trump is nearly as ubiquitous in the culture as he has always believed he should be; the one deeply held belief that has been evident throughout his whole faithless disgrace of a life is people should be talking about Donald Trump more, on television, and he has just about seen that part through. All Trump wants, all he has ever wanted, is to be able to keep doing and taking and saying whatever he wants whenever he wants. He ran for president for this reason and this reason only... His actions since becoming president have been those of a dim, cruel child playacting at being a powerful man—giving orders without quite knowing what they mean or how they might be carried out, taunting enemies, beating up the people he can afford to beat up without having to be called to account for it, lying as needed or just for yuks...

For someone who does it so frequently, Trump is not especially talented at lying. His dissimilations are all easy to see through; the things he heatedly accuses his enemies of doing are always things that he has done himself, is currently doing, or obviously aspires to do in the future. He is always desperate, in the way that selfish and needy people are always desperate... What’s most striking about Trump’s lies, beyond their overwhelming volume and bombast, is how they reflect his own monomania. So Many Are Saying various things that somehow all wind up being about him; they’re Saying It More And More because there is nothing else and no one else that he could imagine anyone wanting to talk about. The metastasizing They that opposes him grows by the day, and cares about him every bit as much as he cares about himself... Those opiate deaths and wildfires and our fortnightly mass shootings are Quite Frankly So Tragic, but it is palpable that the only real response Trump has to them is that they distract from what everyone had been talking about before, which was and by rights should continue to be him.

Trump won’t stop. He won’t stop because he’s never told the truth in his life and because this is all he has and all he has ever had. He wakes up every day to the mess he’s made and says and does whatever he must, at whatever cost, to get through the day. Like many in his generation, Trump has mistaken the end of his life for the end of the world. He can’t imagine, let alone care about, what will be left after he is gone, if only because no one who matters to him will be around for it. His politics, such as they exist, boil down to this: he is trying to hold on, and will spend the rest of his life trying not to be found out.
Oofda.  Glad to get that over with.  Anyway, now I've cleaned out an entire folder of bookmarks and can return to "normal programming."

17 January 2019

Harpy eagle

Photo via.

Belly button bacterial biodiversity

From 60 belly buttons, the team found 2,368 bacterial species...

Some belly buttons harbored as few as 29 species and some as many as 107, although most had around 67. Ninety-two percent of the bacteria types showed up on fewer than 10 percent of subjects—in fact, most of the time, they appeared in only a single subject.

One science writer, for instance, apparently harbored a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been.

Another, more fragrant individual, who hadn't washed in several years, hosted two species of so-called extremophile bacteria that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents...

Despite the diversity, themes emerged. Even though not a single strain showed up in each subject, eight species were present on more than 70 percent of the subjects. And whenever these species appeared, they did so in huge numbers.
"That makes the belly button a lot like rain forests," Dunn said. In any given forest, he explained, the spectrum of flora might vary, but an ecologist can count on a certain few dominant tree types.
More at National Geographic and Wikipedia. [The most prevalent organisms were Staphylococci, Corynebacteria, Actinobacteria, Clostridia, and Bacilli - pretty much like the skin in general].

See also omphaloskepsis, navel fetishism, and alvinolagnia.

"Instant karma" illustrated

In Kentucky some people built a 9-foot-tall snowman.
“We were playing in the snow, she’s from Mississippi so this is the most snow she’s ever seen in her entire life. I’m from Buffalo so this is no big deal,” Lutz said. “I love the snow!”
At night a local driver decided to ram the snowman with his truck.

The snowman had been built around the trunk of a dead tree.

Here's an interesting aspect of a border wall with Mexico

I was flipping past TV channels the other day and heard a new observation about "the wall."  I don't know whether it was part of a pro-wall or anti-wall comment, and I don't know who was speaking, but the gist was something I had not heard before.

If a wall is built along the length of the U.S./Mexico border, the easternmost part will have to contend with the presence of the Rio Grande river.  For practical reasons, the wall cannot be built in the river - it has to be on the shore, and on the American side.

This means that if anyone crosses the river (easy to do - you can wade across at certain places in certain seasons) they would be standing on United States soil and could ask for asylum.  They wouldn't need to cross the wall.

An interesting observation.  I'll leave the Comments section open for a while, as long as discussion remains civil.

Addendum:  The basic principles mentioned above have now been fully elaborated, with photos, in this Washington Post article.

Addendum #2:  A Los Angeles Times article elucidates Five Misconceptions About The Border Wall.

BTW and unrelated: "In the 1640's the Dutch inhabitants of New Amsterdam built a 12' wall to keep the bad hombres out. In 1664 the British ignored the wall and took New Amsterdam by sea. It's now called New York."

Image annotated from the original here.

A company will now transfuse you with a young person's blood

It may be batshit crazy, but it's real.  And it's legal.
Roughly three years ago, Karmazin launched Ambrosia, a startup that fills the veins of older people with blood from younger donors, hoping the procedure would help conquer aging by rejuvenating the body's organs...

The company is now up and running... Ambrosia... is now accepting payments for the procedure via PayPal. Two options are listed: 1 liter of young blood for $8,000, or 2 liters for $12,000...

Because blood transfusions are already approved by federal regulators, Ambrosia does not need to demonstrate that its treatment carries significant benefits before offering it to customers.

Karmazin said that "many" of the roughly 150 people who had received the treatment described benefits including renewed focus, better memory and sleep, and improved appearance and muscle tone.

However, it's tough to quantify these benefits before the study's findings are made public. There's also the possibility that simply traveling to a lab in Monterey and paying to enroll in the study could have made the people feel better.
The embedded image is of Elizabeth Bathory.  Only tangentially related, but I couldn't think of anything better.
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