31 March 2019

Russian Lada

Via English Russia

Also at that link a clever creation from eggs, radish slices, and ?what for eyes (see below):

Credit for this creation to Key Ingredient (which specifies peppercorns for eyes, and chives for tails).  Hat tip to reader Cobwebs for tracking down the source.

Mother-daughter flight crew

ATLANTA, Ga. (WFLA) - A photo of a mother and daughter has gone viral as they flew together as a flight crew.

The duo, Capt. Wendy Rexon and First Officer Kelly Rexon were smiling ear to ear as they prepared to fly a Delta Boeing 757 together.

The photo was taken by Dr. John R. Watret, the chancellor of Embry-Riddle Worldwide, a world-renowned aeronautical university, who just happened to overhear that there was a mother-daughter flight crew. The viral tweet meant a great deal to Watret because of Embry-Riddle’s commitment to creating more opportunities for women in all areas of the aviation industry.

The purpose of "wolf collars"

"A sheep showing gratitude to the dog that saved him from a wolf attack.  Notice the spike collar (not dog’s blood)."
You learn something every day.  I had seen photos of spiked collars on dogs and assumed they were just decorative or fanciful; I didn't know they derive from a European tradition of having dogs protect livestock from wolves.
A wolf collar (also known as Italian: roccale or vreccale, Spanish: carlancas) is a type of dog collar designed to protect livestock guardian dogs from attack by wolves. Wolf collars are fitted with elongated spikes to stop wolves from attacking dogs on the neck. Such collars are used by shepherds in many countries including Italy, Spain and Turkey.  [photos at the link]


An engaging performance by Kelly Macdonald in a movie that's not actually about competitive gaming, but rather about solving the puzzle of one's own identity.

30 March 2019

The amazing feet of a gecko

Geckos can stick to surfaces because their bulbous toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae. Each seta splits off into hundreds of even smaller bristles called spatulae. Scientists already knew that the tufts of tiny hairs get so close to the contours in walls and ceilings that the van der Waals force kicks in. This type of physical bond happens when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the wall molecules interact with each other and create an electromagnetic attraction...

A gecko by definition is not sticky — he has to do something to make himself sticky," study lead author Alex Greaney, a professor of engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis, told Live Science. "It's this incredible synergy of the flexibility, angle and extensibility of the hairs that makes it possible."

Greaney and a team of researchers created a mathematical model that shows how the setae angle and the forces that act on a gecko as it climbs interact to create a delicate but powerful sticking system.
Additional explanation at LiveScience.  Photo via.

The purpose of "netting" trees and shrubs

"... nesting is not being made easy in many parts of England, with increased reports of developers covering hedges and trees with netting.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says developers do this to make it easier for them to remove greenery when the time comes, as although it's an offence to destroy an active nest, there are no laws to prevent the installation of nets to stop birds nesting in the first place...

Is it legal?  Yes, although the RSPB says there are legal responsibilities such as fitting the netting properly and checking it regularly to make sure birds and animals aren't trapped...

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) says it wants developments to "enhance our natural environment" and has announced plans to require developers to deliver a "biodiversity net gain".
There's more discussion at the BBC.  There are two sides to every situation.  An ethical and conservation-minded developer could "net" a tree to prevent nesting, then remove the nest-free tree and place new nesting trees in the development to ensure no net loss of nesting locations.  However,  I'm reminded of the Minnesota regulations against damaging wetlands that allow replacement wetlands to be created; such replacements often fail to attract or maintain wildlife the way the original ones did.

#trashtag is trending on social media

"Over this past weekend, #trashtag started trending on social media as well as reddit. People on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit were sharing before and after photos of areas they had cleared of trash. "
A gallery of photos is posted at TwistedSifter.  Another one here.

A thousand dead dolphins on French beaches

As reported by France24:
“There’s never been a number this high,” said Willy Daubin, a member of La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research. “Already in three months, we have beaten last year’s record, which was up from 2017 and even that was the highest in 40 years.”

Though Daubin said 90 percent of the fatalities resulted from the dolphins being accidentally captured in industrial fishing nets, the reason behind the spike this year is a mystery...

Autopsies carried out on the dolphins this year at La Rochelle University show extreme levels of mutilation. [note the severed dorsal fin in the photo]

Activists say it’s common for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up on the nets, to save the nets...

It claims many of the trawlers they watch in the region don’t activate the [dolphin-] repellent devices, fearing they will scare off valuable fish as well, and only turn them on if they are being checked by fishing monitors...

She cited scientists who predict that the current rates of fishing will likely drive the dolphin population to extinction.

"Zipper merging" is "the law"

Kate Thoma recently came upon a construction zone in Bloomington, and with traffic backed up in the left lane, she zoomed along in the unoccupied right lane until signs told her to move over. She was zipper merging, but her efforts were thwarted by a left lane vigilante who would not let her in line.

“I’m certain he thought of me as rude and entitled, but I was just doing what my 9th grade driver’s ed teacher taught me,” Thoma said.

Indeed zipper merging is the law, but Thoma’s experience prompted her to ask why Minnesotans can’t zipper merge and why some motorists get all worked up when people do it...

The Minnesota Department of Transportation in the early 2000s was the first in the nation to employ the zipper merge as a way to better manage traffic when a lane is closed in work zones. The concept is simple: Drivers remain in their respective lanes until they reach the designated merge point. Then, like we learned in kindergarten, drivers are supposed to take turns falling orderly in line.

“It’s a great idea in theory, but theory is not how people always drive,” said Dwight Hennessy, a traffic psychologist who teaches at Buffalo State College in New York. “Zipper works when everyone follows the rules — the system can handle the odd rule breaker — but typically when one person breaks those rules others often follow.”

When people speed by in the open lane, that ticks people off as those waiting in line for a long time perceive those passing by as being impatient rule breakers sneaking to the front, Hennessy said.

“It’s perceived unfairness,” said MnDOT work zone engineer Ken Johnson. “If more people would use lanes to the merge point, fairness is taken care of.”
Sometimes frustrated drivers take things into their own hands. Thoma has seen drivers intentionally blocking the open lane so nobody can pass. That’s a no-no, said Lt. Gordon Shank of the State Patrol, and a ticketable offense.
There's more information at the StarTribune.  Frankly I didn't realize it's "the law" (perhaps it varies by state).

29 March 2019

"Quaker guns" in the American Revolution and the Civil War

Explained and illustrated at Amusing Planet:
Deception turned out to be very fruitful during the American Revolution in 1780. When the continental forces under the command of Colonel William Washington attacked a fortified barn near Camden, South Carolina, where the Loyalists under Colonel Henry Rugeley had barricaded themselves, the Colonel asked his men to surround the barn and prepare a pine log that resembled a cannon. He pointed the “cannon” towards the building and threatened to blow it away if the Loyalists didn’t surrender. Rugeley’s men meekly surrendered without a single shot having been fired.

This was the first recorded incident of a “Quaker gun”—the name is a reference to the religious community of Quakers who believed in pacifism and non-violence.

Quaker guns played a small but significant role during the American Civil War... 
Details at the link, with additional photos.

Clarification and update

... this was an opportunity for DeVos to demonstrate that she and her Department of Education would like to cut $7 billion—that is, roughly 10 percent of the department’s total budget—in spending on education. DeVos also proposed spending an additional $60 million on charter schools, but mostly this was about identifying which areas DeVos and the Trump administration thought were receiving too much money—programs designed to improve conditions at deteriorating or dangerous public schools, for instance, or grants that aimed to shrink class sizes and fund professional development for teachers. The proposal also involved eliminating the entire $17.6 million that the federal government contributes to the Special Olympics.

 “Even with Republicans in the majority in the U.S. House the last two years, most of DeVos’s strongest proposals for cuts or spending were turned back.” With a Democratic House, they stand no chance. Again: majestic dance of failure; ritual and performance; outcomes that satisfy no one, forever and ever... the administration’s budget proposal was, while an obscenity on its merits, also perhaps best understood as a gesture, or as a rare example of the extravagantly cursed internet phrase “virtue signaling” in action. Betsy DeVos and the other ghouls in Trump’s Carnival Of Souls will not succeed in eliminating federal funding for the Special Olympics. It’s just important for them to get on the record about wanting to do it.
It's worth clarifying that federal funding represents a small percentage of the Special Olympics budget:
In 2017 Special Olympics had a total income of $148.7M, of which $15.5M came from Federal grants. They spent a total $130M, leaving them with a net positive gain of $18.7M. The elimination of the $15.5M will not prevent them from doing anything they currently do.
And of course the proposal was withdrawn.

How to defeat socialism

Via the PoliticalHumor subreddit.

27 March 2019

"There's only so much lipstick you can put on the pig"

Climb Real Estate Sales Agent Michelle Stephens, who put out the listing last week, told Yahoo Finance that the reason why she didn’t “dress the place up” was because she wanted to be “more transparent — they need to know what they’re buying.”

Stephens added: “There’s only so much lipstick you can put on the pig. And it just didn’t make sense. It’s visceral too, because you get to the property and there’s an actual aroma as well. Years of not cleaning up kitchen grease has really impacted the property.”

The tenants had moved out a year ago and insisted on the million-dollar price tag
It's not a total dump.  The full listing has 30 photos.  The basement is unfinished, the yard is primeval, but the San Francisco house does have locationlocationlocation.

The conspiracy to assassinate George Washington

Last night I finished reading this rather interesting book, which I learned about from an article in Smithsonian:
Mere days before the Declaration of Independence was signed in July 1776, 20,000 spectators gathered in a field where Manhattan’s modern-day Chinatown lies. All together, soldiers and citizens alike, they amassed the largest crowd to watch a public execution in the colonies at the time. Two days earlier Thomas Hickey, a member of the elite guard responsible for protecting George Washington, was convicted of mutiny and sedition, and on the morning of June 28, 1776, was hanged for his crimes.

Although he was the only one executed, Hickey, it turns out, was part of a much larger scheme, one concocted by British loyalists to assassinate Washington, who at the time was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.
This from a review at NPR:
The book is also extremely well-researched. Meltzer and Mensch cite an impressive number of primary sources, including letters from Washington and others, as well as a heroic number of history books. Nothing about the book is phoned in; the amount of research behind it is genuinely remarkable.

If there's one thing that doesn't quite succeed, it's Meltzer and Mensch's prose, which at times tends toward the breathless. Writing about Tryon, for example, the authors declare, "He has money. He knows the city as well as anyone. He has friends in high places ... and low places." And on the Declaration of Independence, they write, "In a few days, the Congress will vote whether to ratify this document — and potentially change the war ... and the world ... forever." These kind of sentences, which always come at the end of their chapters, sound like a narrator of a television series dramatically teasing the next segment of the show right before a commercial break.

But that's a minor complaint — it's easy to overlook the occasional histrionic writing when the story is so fascinating.
I totally agree with the observation about the overly dramatic prose style, but overall that didn't detract from the interesting story.  It's an easy read that can be completed in a couple evenings, and it's worth the time.

"New parent starter pack"

Via the Funny subreddit

Cemeteries are a dying business

Crystal Lake Cemetery’s lush greenery and manicured lawns earned it praise more than a century ago as an “ideal city of the dead.”

Fewer people these days are choosing to spend eternity in this enclave of north Minneapolis.
Owners of the 130-year-old cemetery, the second-largest in Minneapolis, recently offered to donate it to the city after being charged for a nearby road construction project. They say the property has been losing about $300,000 annually for several years largely due to maintenance costs and fewer burials. “If you would like to receive Crystal Lake Cemetery as a gift, from my family, we’ll give it to you free of charge with all documentation,” Bill McReavy, president of Washburn-McReavy, which owns the 140-acre cemetery, said at a recent city hearing.

The city says it is not considering the offer. And McReavy has assured concerned families that his company intends to continue taking good care of the property.

But McReavy’s predicament illustrates the challenge some cemeteries face as more people choose to be cremated — while others would just prefer burial in the suburbs. About 67 percent of deaths in Minnesota this year will result in cremation, up from 49 percent nine years ago, according to projections by the National Funeral Directors Association.
The rest of the story is at the StarTribune.

USD $10 in Venezuelan cash

Via Reddit; source not linked, but this chart from Trading Economics would suggest that this is real:

A lot of lives and businesses being ruined down there.  

26 March 2019

Mass incarceration in the United States

The American criminal justice system holds almost 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories. This report provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration.
More information at the Prison Policy Initiative, including discussion of these five myths:
The first myth: Releasing “nonviolent drug offenders” would end mass incarceration

The second myth: Private prisons are the corrupt heart of mass incarceration

The third myth: Prisons are “factories behind fences” that exist to provide companies with a huge slave labor force

The fourth myth: Expanding community supervision is the best way to reduce incarceration

The fifth myth: People in prison for violent or sexual crimes are too dangerous to be release
Via Neatorama.

Look at these HORIZONTAL blue bars

Perfectly horizontal.  Really.

Based on the classic "cafe wall" optical illusion.

If you like this, note that the TYWKIWDBI category of optical illusions currently has 68 entries.

Via Boing Boing.

(Reposted from 2017 because I still find it hard to believe...)


Via the Toronto Star.

Do you have PYREX or pyrex in your kitchen ?

I found both in our cupboard.
Borosilicate PYREX Glass has excellent thermal shock resistance. It does not expand or contract like ordinary Soda-Lime glass does when exposed to rapid changes in heat or cold. Unfortunately when Corning, Inc. sold off the PYREX® trademark it became pyrex® in America and the new company started using Soda-Lime Glass instead of Borosilicate Glass. The company that bought the PYREX® trademark for European use continues to make Borosilicate Glass PYREX.
This 2-minute Consumer Reports video uses extreme conditions to demonstrate the difference:

25 March 2019

Bonsai in bloom

Apparently an azalea.

Incorrect masks used in the movie "Alien"

During my brief break from blogging, I had a chance to watch part of Ridly Scott's "Alien," and noticed an error in the filming that I hadn't been aware of during previous viewings.  After John Hurt is brought back to Nostromo, he is placed in the infirmary; Ash and Captain Dallas enter and ponder how to remove the facehugger.

For this scene they are dressed in surgical gowns and are wearing masks - BUT the masks chosen for the film are not isolation masks; in fact these masks have absolutely zero filtering capacity.  They are simple oxygen masks.  In the screenshot above, the mask Ash is wearing clearly displays the nipple to which in real life one would attach the green oxygen tubing.  He is also wearing the mask improperly; it should fit under his chin, not be lodged against his lower lip.

Captain Dallas wears the same oxygen mask (and obviously without any oxygen).  When Hurt's body is moved into the scanner, they stay in the room but remove the masks (which would not be appropriate in an infectious environment) until his body comes out of the scanner.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of hospital procedures and equipment should know that these masks are not isolation masks.  I presume the director opted for being able to visualize more of the actors' faces rather than for scientific accuracy.

This error is not recorded at the Movie Mistakes website - but there are 47 others listed, some of them quite interesting.

Reposted from 2011 because next month will be the 40th anniversary of the first screening of the movie.
Over the past four decades, dozens of books, hundreds of journal articles and innumerable college courses have analysed, frame by frame, Ridley Scott’s story of a bloodthirsty creature stalking the crew of the spaceship Nostromo. No other film, not even The Godfather or Psycho, has generated quite that amount of attention.

And now that academic outpouring is about to reach a new peak as the film approaches its anniversary next month. Events will include the release of new Blu-ray versions of the film, the screening of a documentary of its making, Memory: The Origins of Alien; and the staging of a two-day symposium, 40 years of Alien, that will be held at Bangor University in May. Speakers will give talks on “Alien and race, ethnicity and otherness”; “Alien and psychoanalysis”; and “Alien and neoliberalism, post-industrialism and the rise of multinational corporations”. Proceedings are scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press.
There are some excellent observations in the Comments section for this post.

The Sword of Damocles

I had occasion today to mention the "sword of Damocles" in conversation, but then realized I didn't really know what exactly I was talking about.  Wikipedia provided the explanation:
According to the story, Damocles was pandering to Dionysius, his king, and exclaimed to him that Dionysius was truly fortunate as a great man of power and authority, surrounded by magnificence. In response, Dionysius offered to switch places with Damocles for one day so that Damocles could taste that very fortune firsthand. Damocles quickly and eagerly accepted the king's proposal. Damocles sat down in the king's throne surrounded by every luxury, but Dionysius, who had made many enemies during his reign, arranged that a huge sword should hang above the throne, held at the pommel only by a single hair of a horse's tail to evoke the sense of what it is like to be king: though having much fortune, always having to watch in fear and anxiety against dangers that might try to overtake him. Damocles finally begged the king that he be allowed to depart because he no longer wanted to be so fortunate, realizing that with great fortune and power comes also great danger.

King Dionysius effectively conveyed the sense of constant fear in which a person with great power may live.

23 March 2019

Wind chill 85

The tree photos include a pair of Royal Palms, the mottled trunk of a slash pine, a banyan in an urban garden, and a strangler fig.  The bird is an immature white ibis.  The boardwalk is at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (the birders are my native Neapolitan cousins), and the orchid was at the Naples Botanical Garden.

Even with the vocabulary of an English major, it's hard for me to describe the satisfaction and sense of well-being that comes from escaping the polar vortex region for an extended visit to a subtropical climate.  I am in awe of my uncle who had the foresight to move from Grafton, North Dakota to Florida in the 1950s to raise his family; he chose to settle in a town called Naples that was so small that the family had to drive the Tamiami Trail to Miami to find a shoe store.

The beach was awesome:

"Unfavorable" weather (temps in 60s with occasional rain) kept the snowbirds and even the locals away, so I had a mile or so of beach to myself.  The wind and the repetitive lapping of the shore by the waves created an ASMR-like sensation.

I've returned to Wisconsin refreshed and reinvigorated.  After a day or two of chores, I'll get the blog fired up again.

08 March 2019

Extended blogcation

In recent years I've taken occasional brief breaks from the blog for a few days or a week, but now I've decided to take an extended leave of at least two weeks.

This will be a respite not just from blogging, but also from ebaying and gaming - no Sim City, no Civilization V.  It will be a much-needed rest for my trigger thumb and for my psyche, especially as this record-cold, multi-roofraking, uber-unpleasant winter drags to an end.  I'm also going to close the comments on some recent posts because I won't be curating them.  No keyboard activities for the next two weeks.  Doctors' orders.

And now I'm... outta here.

The antiquity of "Snakes and Ladders"

According to Veda, the game was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev.
In the original game square 12 was faith, 51 was Reliability, 57 was Generosity, 76 was Knowledge, and 78 was Asceticism. These were the squares where the ladder was found. Square 41 was for Disobedience, 44 for Arrogance, 49 for Vulgarity, 52 for Theft, 58 for Lying, 62 for Drunkenness, 69 for Debt, 84 for Anger, 92 for Greed, 95 for Pride, 73 for Murder and 99 for Lust. These were the squares where the snake was found. The Square 100 represented Nirvana or Moksha.
More info:
Snakes and Ladders originated in India as part of a family of dice board games that included Gyan chauper and pachisi (present-day Ludo and Parcheesi). The game made its way to England and was sold as "Snakes and Ladders", then the basic concept was introduced in the United States as Chutes and Ladders by game pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.

The game was popular in ancient India by the name Moksha Patam. It was also associated with traditional Hindu philosophy contrasting karma and kama, or destiny and desire. It emphasized destiny, as opposed to games such as pachisi, which focused on life as a mixture of skill (free will) and luck. The underlying ideals of the game inspired a version introduced in Victorian England in 1892. The game has also been interpreted and used as a tool for teaching the effects of good deeds versus bad. The board was covered with symbolic images, the top featuring gods, angels, and majestic beings, while the rest of the board was covered with pictures of animals, flowers and people.

The ladders represented virtues such as generosity, faith, and humility, while the snakes represented vices such as lust, anger, murder, and theft. The morality lesson of the game was that a person can attain salvation (Moksha) through doing good, whereas by doing evil one will inherit rebirth to lower forms of life. The number of ladders was less than the number of snakes as a reminder that a path of good is much more difficult to tread than a path of sins. Presumably, reaching the last square (number 100) represented the attainment of Moksha (spiritual liberation).

When the game was brought to England, the Indian virtues and vices were replaced by English ones in hopes of better reflecting Victorian doctrines of morality. Squares of Fulfillment, Grace and Success were accessible by ladders of Thrift, Penitence and Industry and snakes of Indulgence, Disobedience and Indolence caused one to end up in Illness, Disgrace and Poverty. While the Indian version of the game had snakes outnumbering ladders, the English counterpart was more forgiving as it contained each in the same amount. This concept of equality signifies the cultural ideal that for every sin one commits, there exists another chance at redemption.
Interesting that success in the game as originally designed depended entirely on luck (roll of dice) with no apparent skills or strategy involved; perhaps that's part of the karma lesson.  AFAIK, the American version didn't incorporate any virtues or sins - it was more like random good and bad luck.  I may be misremembering.  But I certainly didn't know it was an ancient game.

07 March 2019

Elaborate warded lock

Found at the mildlyinteresting subreddit.
These are called warded locks. If the key wasn't the same shape as the ward, the lock wouldn't open. Older versions were pretty easy to pick by modern standards, but wards are still in use. Modern locks have a plate on the front of them that defines the shape of key that the lock will accept. That's why you need to get a key cut from the appropriate blank or it won't work. If you check your keys, odds are very good that stamped on the bow (the part of the key that you hold to turn it in the lock) is a small letter/number code that identifies the blank and therefore the shape of the ward.
Source: Former institutional (i.e. corporate) locksmith.
Warded locks are an old type of lock where the key has to pass over several obstructions (wards) as it rotates, before it can engage with the mechanism and unlock. It doesn't refer to the shape to which the blank must conform (the shape of the keyway), but the shape to which the final key must conform.

You are correct regarding warded locks using internal wards to stop a key from rotating unless it was the correct shape (unless it was a skeleton key, which bypassed these internal wards). But using that definition for a ward is too narrow. Wards are physical obstructions that stop the key from entering or turning the lock.

If the ward stops the key from entering the lock, it's a keyway ward. In the lock, they're the protrusions from the keyway that necessitate the grooves that are cut down the length of the key. They partly define the shape of the blanks (in addition to other things like the number of pins in the cylinder). The cuts on the blade of modern keys are generally there to align the shear line on internal pins to open the lock and are therefore not associated with wards. Exceptions to this would be for things like control keys on interchangeable format cores, which allow the lock to be removed from the door with the simple turn of a key (great for swapping out office locks). I've also seen some modern padlocks, cubicle cabinet locks, and the like that use internal wards, but they're generally low quality.

Why is stuff like this allowed to exist ?

Good day to you.

My name is [redacted], a renowned Togo based lawyer. I am writing in connection to your late relative who died along with his wife and only Son in an auto accident.

I have contacted you for the repartration of his money valued at sixteen million five hundred thousand dollars and the also the claiming of his estate. Get back to me for more clarification; Looking forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully, [redacted]. 
I redacted the name in order to not give the scammer any publicity. We have all received emails like this, and any sensible person recognizes it as fake.  In fact my understanding is that scams like this are intentionally written in this floridly bogus style so as not to accidentally entrap any sophisticated computer users, their targets being only the totally naive internet users and those with mental impairments.

As the son of an elderly mother who had advanced dementia, it annoys me that this type of material continues to exist.  I understand that much of it arises overseas in places beyond the jurisdiction of the American court system, but I can't believe that no mechanism exists to shut it down or punish the malefactors. 

"Kulning" explained

Kulning is an ancient herding call that Swedish women have practiced for hundreds of years. But in recent decades, Jinton says, it’s been largely forgotten.

According to Susanne Rosenberg, professor and head of the folk music department at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and kulning expert, the vocal technique likely dates back to at least the medieval era. In the spring, farmers sent their livestock to a small fäbod, or remote, temporary settlement in the mountains, so cows and goats could graze freely. Women, young and old, accompanied the herds, living in relative isolation from late May until early October...

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds...

Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels—which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away... Some women have even learned the far-carrying cries as a form of self-defense...
Via Neatorama.

Adults living in the state where they were born

Via Digg

How a "wealth tax" would work

Too many people still don't understand the difference between a wealth tax and an income tax, and don't understand marginal rates.  Show this video to your friends who are in that group.

Recycling is breaking down

It appears there are diminishing choices of where to recycle TO...
China, once the single-largest buyer for U.S. recyclables, banned the import of two dozen types of “foreign waste” and imposed strict quality standards on the recyclables it’ll accept. Nationwide, municipalities are facing higher costs and being forced to find stopgap solutions, from incinerators to landfills, for recyclables that have nowhere else to go...

Mixed paper and plastic exports to China plunged more than 90 percent between January 2017 and January 2018, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. International Trade Commission. As the industry scrambled to find new buyers, prices went through the floor. Anne Germain, Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs at the National Waste and Recycling Association, an industry trade group, told me that mixed paper went from selling for about $100 a ton to a high of about $3 a ton...

As Scott McGrath, Environmental Planning Director at the City of Philadelphia Streets Department explained, the city was recently making good money selling its recyclables to processors, with the price peaking at $67 a ton in 2012. By January 2018, Philly was paying its contractor, Republic Services, $20 a ton to continue taking recycling. By the summer, that figure had jumped to $40 a ton. When the city started trying to renegotiate its contract, which expired in September, Republic Services asked for $170 a ton to keep recycling.
Meanwhile, Canadian forests are still being harvested for American toilet paper

The anatomy of parrot vocalization

06 March 2019


"Director François Ozon’s elegiac tale of love and remembrance is set in a small German town in the aftermath of World War I, where a young woman mourning the death of her fiancé forms a bond with a mysterious Frenchman who has arrived to lay flowers on her beloved’s grave."
I watched this movie tonight and can unreservedly recommend it.  The pacing is slow at first as the characters are introduced, but the movie is beautifully filmed and well worth watching.

04 March 2019

Divertimento #161

I haven't done a gif-based linkfest since January.   Hundreds of gifs bookmarked.  Let's go...

Here's what socialist Denmark does for new mothers

Scooping honey from a honeycomb

Deceptive size of beer glass at Applebees

A reminder that a triangle can be made of three right angles

Street scene in Grindewald, Switzerland

European drivers understand to leave road open for emergency vehicles

The speed of light between earth and moon in real time

Cracking open an opal vein in a rock.  Another "boulder opal"

Boston Dynamics' "Big Dog" has been improved

U.S. numbered highway system.  In numerical order.

Child's "activity trunk" ripoff

"Cardominos" are a variant of traditional dominos

Reportedly a meth addict on the street; video mixed with BeeGees

A knight's sabaton (footwear) was very flexible

Backflip in front of a mirror... not.

Zaouli African dance

Drone flight through fireworks

A wrestler seems to appear out of nowhere


Penguin gets separated from his/her group

Giraffe being attacked by lions

People work together to save a dog

Play with a cat.  What can go wrong?

Bald eagle swims to shore with its lunch (bullhead, I think)

Awesome rack on a buck

Journalist goes to animal shelter to write a story

Dog "confined" to a cage

Rhombic egg-eater has a defensive display

Devil rays flying

Clever mouse escapes

What's coming down the hall?

What's under that tiny air bubble at the beach?

Service dog has to learn about glass floor

Dog digs a hole.  Sort of.  "Dog.exe has failed"

After public pool closes, dogs are allowed in (fundraiser, fun for dogs)


College basketball player injures his face on the backboard

Referee dodges a pass in the Alabama/Clemson game

Michael Jordan pre-game ritual

Jessie Graff, ninja warrior.  The lady clapping is her mom 

Pool table trick, hard to appreciate until you see the slow motion

Impressive or clever

How to hide alcohol at a sports event

Cutting a fallen tree

Pancake production line at a fair or carnival

A Novascope is a kind of kaleidoscope

Falling tree unleashes a missile

Cutting clay to reveal art

Cutting a watermelon for sharing

Why you shouldn't touch decorative cattails indoors

Machine wraps hay bales. And another one.

Arborist deploying a portawrap

"Seabreacher" is a new aquatic toy

Disarming a man wielding a knife

Skydiver enters an airplane

Ferrari pit team perfection

Superb moonwalk

What water does to a grease fire

Use your drone to remove a hornet's nest

Glider takeoff

Drone-propelled flying chair

TIL that there are silicone sheets that match the size and weight of pizza dough

Fails (I shouldn't have to leave a trigger warning for this category...)

How not to open champagne

Don't throw lighted cigarettes into underground chambers.

And don't put a firecracker down there either 

Man puts a firecracker into a smoker grill.

Trying to kill a spider

A "snow gun" for people who can't make or throw snowballs

Try to impress people by drinking flaming alcohol

Don't play with an electric fence in a field that has cow patties (skip to start at 1:45)

Deer versus bicyclist.  Both lose.

"Don't mix fire with stupid"

Serious injury from a ridiculous bicycle stunt

Fossil unlocked by a master preparator

Freezing rain + steep driveway.  Note impressive loss of both shoes.


Girl gives her scarf to a homeless dog

Toddler dances to music of buskers

A compilation of four-generation families

Be careful of that step

People work together to save a dog

Man admires old car in parking lot (story at the link)

Child playing hide and seek 

Helping a deer on a frozen lake

Leaving the house with wet hair in the winter

Man rescues dogs from garbage dump

Oofda.  Enough for now.  That empties seven folders with 12 bookmarks each.  Lots more for later.  There are undoubtedly some incorrectly-pasted links; let me know.

The embedded images are selections from a larger gallery at Bored Panda.

It's not a urinal. It's a "speibecken"

Essentially an enormous German emesis basin.   Note the large-diameter discharge pipe and the convenient handholds on the wall.  Not sure if the metal plate is a headrest (?), but it seems to contain a motion detector for the flushing.

Discussion thread at the whatisthisthing subreddit:
"These make sense in bars but they actually have these in the jockey quarters at Churchill Downs for the jockeys to vomit before racing in the Kentucky Derby to further minimize their weight. Seriously."

"Mostly in every brewery in Germany. And some bars do have it. In breweries you normally do a guided tour and afterwards you are allowed to drink as much as you want for a certain time. So that’s when the vomit „urinal“ comes in handy."
Wikipedia page on Speibecken (auf Deutsch).  (auf English)

Useful map of Kashmir

A region that will probably be recurrently in the news this year.  This map shows the disputed boundaries (which is basically the entire region).  Credit Washington Post.

Extreme free-range chicken farming

From the always-interesting Atlas Obscura:
Massimo Rapella, a 48-year-old chicken farmer from northern Italy, is helping chickens rediscover their wild side. Since 2009, Rapella and his wife Elisabetta have been keeping an estimated 2,100 hens in a patch of pristine Alpine forest near Sondrio, in the heart of the Valtellina valley...

Shortly after relocating, Rapella and his wife started keeping a few chickens to provide eggs for their own consumption. But soon enough they noticed some unexpected behavior from their flock. “Our chickens liked roaming around the nearby woods,” Rapella explains. “So I encouraged them to venture out and lay eggs in the wild.”

A few months later, Rapella saw that the birds looked healthier—with shiny feathers and bright-colored wattles—and that their eggs had a fuller taste. “I started wondering if I could take on more chickens and create an ‘Alpine egg’ to sell in local markets,” he says. Today, he sells his uovo di selva, or egg of the woods, to about 400 direct consumers and 40 restaurants...

Most domestic chickens today would not find themselves at home in a forest: at least, not immediately. “The first large batch of chickens I took in looked very lost,” Rapella says. “They had never seen a tree nor a bug in their life, and they were scared of snow.”..

“White birds really stand out to predators,” Clauer says. Rapella keeps two different breeds of chicken: Hy-Line brown hens and the easy-to-spot white Leghorns. While he once lost the occasional chicken, now he relies on a double fence and two trained Maremma sheepdogs to keep badgers, martens (a weasel-like carnivore), foxes, and buzzards at bay.

Rapella’s chickens lay eggs almost every day, like any domesticated chicken, but they do so in the woods. “They like natural nests offered by tree roots or branches,” he says. “Usually when you spot a cranny with some leaves, you know there could be eggs.” Once a hen finds her favorite nesting spot, she goes back to it for each subsequent laying, making Rapella’s egg-hunting easier. Together with two employees, he gathers an estimated 1,000 eggs every morning.

His uovo di selva tastes like egg, but concentrated. There’s more flavor to it, and also more protein, due to the bug-filled diet of the chickens. As a result, when chefs whip the whites from Rapella’s protein-rich eggs, they get three times the volume. The egg yolk can even change with the seasons...
More at the link.
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