30 June 2019

"Contact lenses" used by morticians to keep eyelids closed

Via the Specialized Tools subreddit.

Should President Monroe's name be expunged from schools?

"Over objections from a vocal group of alums, the St. Paul school board voted Tuesday evening to drop James Monroe’s name from two school buildings.

Troubled by the fifth U.S. president’s slave ownership, parents and students at Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus spent a year and a half exploring the change before settling on Global Arts Plus. Students on Tuesday said the new name reflects the magnet school’s students, who come from all over the city and world to attend classes in the Summit Hill and West Seventh neighborhoods...
Its namesake, James Monroe, was the fifth U.S. president, one of 12 to own slaves during his lifetime and one of eight to do so while in office.
“It’s a critically important issue that James Monroe was a slave owner, and that doesn’t reflect the kids that go to Linwood-Monroe in the slightest,” PTO president Jason Johnson said in an interview.

Thirty percent of the dual-campus school’s students are African-American and about as many are white.
Patrick Fleury, a 1966 Monroe High graduate, called the name change a waste of tax money. New school signs and uniforms for the band and sports teams are expected to cost close to $13,000...

The St. Paul district has two other schools named for slave-owning presidents: the grades 6-12 Washington Technology Magnet and Jackson Elementary."

Floral (rose) patterned pillowcases and sheets

Found at the "Awful Taste and Awfully Executed" subreddit.

11-year old girl grants "Three Wishes" for nursing home residents

 Worth 3 minutes of your time.  This is her GoFundMe page.

This monogram is why people say "Jesus H Christ"

While the Chi Rho monogram is composed of the capital forms of the first two letters of the Greek word Χριστός, the IHϹ monogram is composed of the first three letters of Ἰησοῦς, which, if you recall, is the Greek spelling of the name Jesus.

The first letter is the Greek letter iota ⟨I ι⟩, which looks like the Latin letter ⟨I⟩ and makes the [i] sound as in the word machine, or sometimes the consonantal [j] sound as in the word yellow. The second letter is the Greek letter eta, which makes the long E sound, but which looks like the Latin letter H ⟨H η⟩. The third and final letter is the lunate sigma ⟨Ϲ ϲ⟩, a form of the Greek letter sigma which looks extremely similar to the Latin letter ⟨C⟩ and makes the [s] sound as in the word soft.

These are the first three letters of the name Ἰησοῦς, the Greek spelling of the name Jesus used in the original Greek text of the New Testament. At some point, however, presumably sometime in the early 19th century, ignorant Americans who were accustomed to the Latin alphabet and who knew nothing of the Greek alphabet mistook the letters of the IHϹ monogram for the Latin letters J, H, and C. They concluded that the J must stand for "Jesus" and the C must stand for "Christ," but then no one could figure out what the H stood for. Apparently, some people just concluded, "Hey, I guess H must be his middle initial!"

Eventually, the phrase "Jesus H. Christ" became something of a joke and it began to be used as a mild expletive.
More background and details at Mental Floss.

David Attenborough crawls into a termite mound

Remembering the Gulf of Tonkin incident

But in the pre-dawn hours of July 31, 1964, U.S.-backed patrol boats shelled two North Vietnamese islands in the Gulf of Tonkin, after which the Maddox headed to the area. As it cruised along on August 2, it found itself facing down three Soviet-built, North Vietnamese torpedo boats that had come out to chase it away. The Maddox fired first, issuing what the U.S. authorities described as warning shots. Undeterred, the three boats continued approaching and opened up with machine-gun and torpedo fire of their own. With the help of F-8 Crusader jets dispatched from a nearby aircraft carrier, the Maddox badly damaged at least one of the North Vietnamese boats while emerging completely unscathed, except for a single bullet that lodged in its superstructure.

The following day, the U.S. destroyer Turner Joy was sent to reinforce the Maddox, and U.S.-backed raids took place against two additional North Vietnamese defense positions. Then, on August 4, the Maddox and Turner Joy reported that they had been ambushed, with enemy boats firing 22 torpedoes at them. In response, President Johnson ordered air strikes against North Vietnamese boat bases and an oil storage depot. “Aggression by terror against the peaceful villagers of South Vietnam has now been joined by open aggression on the high seas against the United States of America,” he said that evening in a televised address. He also requested a congressional resolution, known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which on August 7 passed unanimously in the House and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, essentially giving him the power to wage war in Southeast Asia as he saw fit.

Throughout these hectic few days, the Johnson administration asserted that the destroyers had been on routine patrol in international waters. In actuality, however, the destroyers were on an espionage mission in waters claimed by North Vietnam. The Johnson administration also described the two attacks as unprovoked; it never disclosed the covert U.S.-backed raids taking place. Another problem: the second attack almost certainly never occurred. Instead, it’s believed that the crewmembers of the Maddox mistook their own sonar’s pings off the rudder for North Vietnamese torpedoes. In the confusion, the Maddox nearly even fired at the Turner Joy. Yet when U.S. intelligence officials presented the evidence to policy makers, they “deliberately” omitted most of the relevant communications intercepts, according to National Security Agency documents declassified in 2005. “The overwhelming body of reports, if used, would have told the story that no attack had happened,” an NSA historian wrote. “So a conscious effort ensued to demonstrate that an attack occurred.” The Navy likewise says it is now “clear that North Vietnamese naval forces did not attack Maddox and Turner Joy that night.”

In private, Johnson himself expressed doubts about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, reportedly telling a State Department official that “those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish!” He also questioned the idea of being in Vietnam at all. “A man can fight if he can see daylight down the road somewhere,” he told a senator in March 1965. “But there ain’t no daylight in Vietnam, there’s not a bit.” Yet even as he said that, he was committing the first ground combat units and initiating a massive bombing campaign. The United States would not withdraw from Vietnam until 1973, by which time a disillusioned Congress had voted to repeal the same Gulf of Tonkin Resolution it had so overwhelmingly supported just a few years earlier.
From History.com 

For those seeking even more detail, transcripts of the LBJ tapes on the Gulf of Tonkin incident are now available for review at the National Security Archive.

So what is all this then ??? - updated

Photographed last week in north-central Minnesota, these painted decoys were clustered in a drainage ditch beside a rural highway, not close to any populated area.

I presume this is a whimsical art installation.  It certainly provided an unexpected diversion during a long drive.

Updated 2019:

It's still there.  I drove by it again on my way up north last week.

The location is here, along Highway 27 northeast of Lake Mille Lacs.

"Murdered by words"

Mocking a "motivational poster."

Title of this post from the subreddit devoted to similar "eloquent but brutal takedowns"

Guiness World Record longest horns

"...a Lone Star longhorn has broken the Guinness World Record for having the longest horn spread on a steer. The record-breaking horns -- they have a 10-foot-7 span -- belong to Poncho Via, a 7-year-old specimen who actually lives in Alabama."
I seem to remember that when I lived in Texas, some people referred to a boring lecture as a "longhorn lecture" (two points separated by a lot of bull).

And this seems to be as good a place as any to post a photo of calf earmuffs:

Apparently they are fairly common.

29 June 2019

"Up North"

I'm back from my visit to the north woods of Minnesota, and I think no photo captures the experience better than the one above - a conventional suburban car-keys holder repurposed to hold swatters for the whole family.

My destination was a traditional campground owned and operated by my aunt and subsequently by my cousin and their families for the past 50+ years.  It's located in Longville, Minnesota (home of the famous summer Turtle Races).  Longville is a small town (fewer than 200 year-round residents) that thrives on three-season visits by people like me coming up from "the cities."

A campground like this could not be developed nowadays in Minnesota.  This one surrounds a manmade lagoon which was created by dredging a lakeside wetland (which gave the location its original name off "Austin's Swamp.")  Current Minnesota shoreland management standards preclude disturbing wetlands, and homes on riparian land are now required to have lots 125' wide, with dwellings set back 75 feet from the ordinary high-water mark.

At "retro" sites like this (grandfathered in when new regulations were established), residents can step out of their trailer, walk 50 feet to the boat and head out fishing for the day.  For a summer season the rates are perhaps $20-25/day, with flush toilets to city septic, hot showers, a modern fish house with freezer for the guts, pets allowed.  What more can you want?  I never locked my door when I was out for the day.  The residents know one another, because the vast majority stay here summer-long or bounce back and forth from a city.  When I walked through, they recognized a stranger and greeted me with "you must be the cousin from Wisconsin..."

And these are serious fishermen.   The lagoon connects by a channel to Girl Lake, which connects to the larger Woman Lake chain.  The boats start heading out at 0530, and they will cheerfully spend the entire day catching-and-releasing, keeping just enough for dinner.  

I'm always bemused to see "fishing boats" with 75- or 90-horse motors, because in my childhood weekends "up at the lake" our family boat was a wooden 14-footer with a 7.5-horse Evinrude motor which would barely lift the front of the boat when you cranked it all the way up.  But it was great for trolling and drifting (these modern aluminum boats get blown every which way on a windy day, too fast for a proper drift over a bed of walleyes).

But the big motors do allow these guys to explore, visiting distant part of the lake or the chain of lakes, and the next day they load it on a trailer and go to a different lake to catch some other kind of fish.

My time up north these days is seldom spent on the lake; I'm more in the woods feeding the mosquitoes (but only one tick the whole time I was there).  Some neighbors have planted lupine, but late June was too late for me to see and photograph the spring ephemeral wildflowers.  And I was probably a couple weeks too early for the ladyslippers.


My most interesting discovery in the woods was the proximal half of a humerus.  You can bet I looked around carefully for the skull (in part because that humerus was not much different in size from my own).  I brought it back to Madison, and a local vet here opined that it was likely from a coyote.  This was in a woods where a wolf was seen this past spring, and I'd bet this particular bone is more likely wolf than coyote, because at least the coyotes in our neighborhood here in Madison are more gracile, and this is a fairly robust bone. 

Anyway, I'm back.  A couple days to get recombobulated, and then the blog posting will resume. 

17 June 2019

You'll need to go elsewhere for your therapy

I need to take about two weeks off.  I'm looking forward to an extended period of time with no internet access.   I hope to return refreshed and reinvigorated at the end of the month.  Bye.

Twelve brown balls

Each one of them is the same shade of brown.  Zoom in for confirmation.

The same image with the colored lines blacked out.

Gila monster skull

Not bumpy skin.  Bumpy skull.

You learn something every day.  Via.

This is not a "feel-good story"

Absolutely incredible!

Sweet Logan and his family came in to the Cedartown Home Depot with a mission. They were worried their insurance wouldn’t pay for the walker Logan needed, and had read about how to make one out of PVC piping online. Well, as soon as The Home Depot associates heard that, they told Logan’s family not to worry, they were on it! Those workers built the walker in no time and had Logan wheeling around the store with a HUGE smile on his face. It’s acts of kindness like this that make our world worth living in, and I am so thankful for those workers who took time out of their own day to make this family’s dream a reality!
There are lots of stories like this.  Acts of kindness to provide medical care.  Crowdfunding to pay for a hospital visit.  These stories shouldn't have to exist.

Let's go back a bit.  The child has hypotonia (a muscle disorder).  But the family "were worried their insurance wouldn’t pay for the walker."  Another version from Good Morning America: "Moore said the insurance process to get Logan a walker is a long one, and he has not yet been approved. While waiting, the Moores watched YouTube instruction videos on how to make one for Logan."

Why do Americans put up with this bullshit??   Why do we allow ourselves to be bullied and robbed by a gargantuan, soulless, complex medical insurance system?  This boy didn't need a bone marrow transplant or tailored gene therapy.  All he needed was a simple device made of aluminum or plastic with some old tennis balls on the bottom, for fuck's sake.

Go ahead and praise the Home Depot employees, but after searching for a long time this morning, I didn't find a single news source that cited the name of the godforsaken medical insurance company that created this dystopian nightmare.  Report about them, interview their president, call this travesty what it is, and remind the American people that they can change this system at the ballot box.

Addendum:  For a superb compilation of similar stories, see this article at FAIR.  With a hat tip to reader escapefromwisconsin.

14 June 2019

Pebble alphabet

I wonder which of these was the most difficult to find?  Credit Clotilda Olyff, via Kottke.

Comma splice

Image cropped for emphasis from the original.

High praise for the "Chernobyl" HBO miniseries

I've seen several positive reviews, this one from The Atlantic:
...Ulana Khomyuk (played by Emily Watson) has a conversation with a Soviet apparatchik about the “incident” at Chernobyl that brings the analogy fully home. “I’ve been assured there’s no problem,” the bureaucrat says. “I’m telling you that there is,” Khomyuk replies. “I prefer my opinion to yours,” he says. “I’m a nuclear physicist,” she counters, adding, “Before you were deputy secretary, you worked in a shoe factory.”

The action veers between ludicrous, Death of Stalin–style farce (the radiation level is reported as 3.6 roentgens per second, since that’s as high as the counters go) and grindingly tense body horror (babies burned bright red, incessant retching, open sores). Johan Renck, who directed all five episodes, instills a sense of visceral fear that culminates in one striking scene where nearby townsfolk bask joyfully with their children under falling flakes of deadly nuclear ash...

Chernobyl is a thorough historical analysis, a gruesome disaster epic replete with oozing blisters and the ominous rattle of Geiger counters, and a mostly riveting drama. But it’s also a warning—one that straddles the line between prescience and portentousness. Whether you apply its message to climate change, the “alternative facts” administration of the current moment, or anti-vaccine screeds on Facebook, Mazin’s moral stands: The truth will eventually come out. The question he poses, however self-consciously, is whether hundreds of thousands of lives must always be sacrificed to misinformation along the way.
The series starts on HBO tonight.

Reposted from May to add this video -

 - and a comment that I thought the series was superbly done.

Chocolate brownies

Excerpts from an article in The Guardian's How To Eat series:
First recorded in print in 1896, in (possible Viz character) Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book, the first brownies featured no chocolate, just molasses....

This is not a dessert; it is a snack. That is not to downplay it. Elongate that pleasure for as long as possible. Revel in that chocolate brownie. But this is a food to be eaten, as an infrequent, rarefied treat, outside meal-times at 11pm, 4pm or similar – and on its own.

The chocolate brownie is too rich to follow other foods and serving it as pudding detracts from its essential appeal. A good brownie is its own self-contained world: sweet, slightly salty potentially, dense with the cocoa, berry and tobacco notes of high-quality chocolate. It needs no augmentation.

Restaurant kitchens, however, find it impossible to send a chocolate brownie naked into the world. They inevitably sauce it and garnish it, and turn the now muffled brownie into a mere component in a confused mess of a dish. They also insist on serving brownies hot, often unforgivably microwaving the heat in, when a brownie is most expressive at room temperature...

Even when you are served an unadorned brownie (in a coffee shop, say), there is a further problem: you will be given a fork. You do not have to use it. But you may feel forced to; and if you do, it will lessen your enjoyment... it is best eaten with your fingers, at a leisurely pace, breaking off pieces and letting them melt in your mouth, while periodically sucking gloop from your fingers...

Do not oversweeten your brownies. Go super-easy on the flour and preferably leave out baking powder altogether. HTE demands a fudgy, almost ganache-like centre. You’re not making a sponge cake...

In 99% of cases, from raspberries to gold leaf, additional ingredients are unnecessary... Decorative sliced strawberries and dustings of icing sugar persist in Britain, even outside garden-centre cafes, but must be robustly resisted.
More at the link.

Flash flood rescue

Spluegen, Switzerland.  Photo credit Graubuenden Police/Reuters, via The Atlantic.

12 June 2019

This is a perfectly valid map

Not perfect, actually, because the label "Svalbard" has been placed on an island in the Russian arctic, but still "valid" in the sense that north-at-the-top is a convention, not a scientific principle.

This map was created by Stuart MacArthur of Melbourne, Australia, and is commercially available.

With a tip of the blogging hat to long-time reader drabkikker.

There's an important lesson to learn here

It IS possible to control a coin flip - as shown in the video.

Take-home lesson.  If you participate in a coin flip, call it after it's in the air, not before.

Via BoingBoing.

Beware the "global tyrrany of the metric system"

Via BoingBoing, where there is a salient comment thread.

Lighthouses of Europe

Via MapPorn.

"I got those beetles out of the tree for you, boss"

A pileated woodpecker at work.  Image cropped for size from the original.

This is how easy it is to be eco-conscious

Asian grocers beginning to wrap produce in banana leaves rather than plastic.

Bernie Sanders explains "democratic socialism"

Excerpts from a major speech Bernie Sanders delivered today at George Washington University:
We must see ourselves as part of one nation, one community and one society — regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or country of origin. This quintessentially American idea is literally emblazoned on our coins: E Pluribus Unum. From the many, one. And, I should tell you, it is enshrined in the motto of our campaign for the presidency — Not me, Us.

Let me be clear. I do understand that I and other progressives will face massive attacks from those who attempt to use the word “socialism” as a slur. But I should also tell you that I have faced and overcome these attacks for decades — and I am not the only one.

Let us remember that in 1932, Republican President Herbert Hoover claimed that Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was, “a disguise for the totalitarian state.” In 1936 former Democratic New York Governor and presidential candidate Al Smith said in a speech about FDR’s New Deal policies, “Just get the platform of the Democratic Party and get the platform of the Socialist Party and lay them down on your dining-room table, side by side.” 

When President Harry Truman proposed a national health care program, the American Medical Association hired Ronald Reagan as their pitchman. The AMA called the legislation that stemmed from his proposal “socialized medicine” claiming that White House staff were, “followers of the Moscow party line.”

In 1960, Ronald Reagan in a letter to Richard Nixon wrote the following about John F. Kennedy: “Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx.” In the 1990s, then Congressman Newt Gingrich claimed President Bill Clinton’s health care plan was “centralized bureaucratic socialism.” The conservative Heritage Foundation has claimed that the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was “a step towards socialism.” Former Speaker of the House John Boehner claimed the stimulus package, the omnibus spending bill and the budget proposed by President Barack Obama were “all one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment.” 

In this regard, President Harry Truman was right when he said that: “Socialism is the epithet they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years…Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.”

Now let’s be clear: while President Trump and his fellow oligarchs attack us for our support of democratic socialism, they don’t really oppose all forms of socialism. They may hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires...

[during the 2008 market crash] Overnight, Wall Street became big government socialists and begged for the largest federal bailout in American history — some $700 billion from the Treasury and trillions in support from the Federal Reserve.

But it’s not just Wall Street that loves socialism — when it works for them. It is the norm across the entire corporate world. The truth is corporate America receives hundreds of billions of dollars in federal support every single year, while these same people are trying to cut programs that benefit ordinary Americans.

If you are a fossil fuel company, whose carbon emissions are destroying the planet, you get billions in government subsidies including special tax breaks, royalty relief, funding for research and development and numerous tax loopholes.

If you are a pharmaceutical company, you make huge profits on patent rights for medicines that were developed with taxpayer funded research...

And let me be absolutely clear: democratic socialism to me requires achieving political and economic freedom in every community. And let me also be clear, the only way we achieve these goals is through a political revolution – where millions of people get involved in the political process and reclaim our democracy by having the courage to take on the powerful corporate interests whose greed is destroying the social and economic fabric of our country. At the end of the day, the one percent may have enormous wealth and power, but they are just the one percent. When the 99 percent stand together, we can transform society.

These are my values, and that is why I call myself a democratic socialist.
Fulltext of the speech at Vox.

09 June 2019

Divertimento #164

Yet another gif-fest.  About 50 bookmarked in the past 6 weeks

"My niece has her bird trained to attack anyone she screams at"
Cleaning solar panels
"When your inheritance goes from 100% to 50%
Bus driver saves child from major trauma
Truck makes use of "runaway semi ramp" 
Truck tips over and crashes.  Not a tragedy....
Trash cans have hidden depths

Nature and Science
Earthquake dampers
Saharan sand snake
Cave floods during rainstorm.  Size scale at end.
Brain-eating amoeba at a popular swimming hole
Natural soap in a plant.  Info in comment here.
Conservation of angular momentum (re Olympic figure-skating)
Magnetic field viewer
How to describe this??
Exhibit at a children's museum

"Humans being bros"
Beluga returns dropped cellphone
Sea horse giving birth
The awesome, unbelievable speed of a grizzly bear 
Man gives water to thirsty cobra
Wolf tracked with GPS
Cat being a cat
Circus elephants reunited after 22-year separation
Gardener gets some help
Blanket octopus
Bioluminescent plankton in the Netherlands
Green dragontail butterfly
Dragonhead caterpillar
Cayman enters swimming pool to attack humans

Sports and athleticism
High school sprinter Matt Boling
Skateboard competitor
Basketball buzzer-beater
"Dead spot" on a tennis court

Impressive or clever
Bird swallows (four) fish.
"Flow" beehive
Leveling tiles
How to control a coin flip
How to move stuff from hi-rise apartments
Spiral binder
Manipulating rings
Tattoo with UV-responsive ink

Amazon driver delivers package, then steals it
Teenager intentionally damages statuary
Man launches his boat.  And his car.
How not to bash a pinata

Sloth waves thank-you to human bro
Lady gets her hair colored green
Hard to describe in a few words... 
Unexpected gender reveal method
Buster Keaton compilation

Embedded images harvested from MapswithoutAustralia

08 June 2019

Europe in 1500

Fascinating map, via the Europe subreddit.  If the image I've embedded doesn't allow you to zoom in for details like these -

- try going to the original and zooming there.  I added some zooming on my monitor to see fine details.

I've been unable to locate the source and would appreciate any info in that regard (especially re the accuracy of the depiction and whether the source is history-based or game-based.

Ursa major damage

California police are reminding drivers to lock their car doors after a bear let itself inside an unlocked vehicle near Lake Tahoe and destroyed the interior...

While trapped inside, the bear apparently ripped the seats apart, tore open the glove compartment and pulled down part of the ceiling. The animal also urinated, defecated and spit all over the destroyed interior, police said. The department called the vehicle “a total loss.”

Police were eventually able to open the rear hatch to let the bear escape.
Via Neatorama.  Image cropped for clarity from the original.

On Wall Street bad = good

Explained at the Washington Post:
The Dow Jones industrial average soared more than 260 points on the news that the U.S. economy is creating fewer jobs than expected... But bad news can be good news in the upside-down world of Federal Reserve interest-rate manipulations and presidential interventions to keep the good times rolling...

“The world economy is slowing, inflation is below target, and now the slowing U.S. economy with today’s no-jobs report is the final straw to break the camel’s back for the Federal Reserve sitting on the sidelines,” said Chris Rupkey, managing director at MUFG Union Bank. “Rate cuts are coming. Bet on it.”

Job creation had been the one holdout against a slowing economy. Unemployment is still crouching at a 50-year low of 3.6 percent. But the Labor Department showed that the economy created far fewer jobs last month than experts had forecast, adding the latest piece to a string of disappointing reports that shows a 10-year boom gasping — for an interest-rate cut.

”This looks like the first shot across the bow,” DePalma said. “One of the economy’s only bright spots is finally weakening. The labor reports have been so consistently good that this is a slap across the face. It gives the Fed license to cut rates.”

The odds of a rate cut rose immediately on the news, with futures placing the chance of a Fed interest-rate cut at 79 percent. The chance of a second rate cut by September rose to 95 percent. “The market is happy because the punch bowl is still there,” DePalma said...

The jobs report is bad news for Main Street and good news for Wall Street,” said Jared Bernstein, who served as the economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “It’s a microcosm of our inequality problem. You have wage gains that appear to have stalled, and Wall Street loves that because it means fatter profit margins.”

"Redneck engineering"

Via.  Note there is an entire redneckengineering subreddit, where you can find stuff like this:

07 June 2019

"Perpetual diamond" optical illusion

The diamond in the video IS NOT MOVING.

The key to the illusion is the thin perimeter of the diamond -
The Perpetual Diamond produces motion continuously and unambiguously in one direction despite never physically changing location. The phenomenon consists of a steady, mid-luminance diamond bordered by four thin edge strips and a surrounding background field. The direction of motion is determined by the relative phases of the luminance modulation between the edge strips and the background. Because the motion is generated entirely by changing contrast signals between the edge strips and background, the stimulus is a valuable tool for tests of spatial contrast, temporal contrast, contrast gain, and color contrast. We demonstrate that observers see motion even when the edge strips subtend only seconds of arc on the retina (which is less than the frequently reported 10 minutes of arc) and that perceived motion is due entirely to changes in the difference in contrast phase modulation, independent from the luminance phase.
For a full explanation, go to Neatorama and follow the links there - one of which is an interactive demo.

Trigger warning: animal abuse

I couldn't watch all the way through.

Summary from The Guardian:
Undercover footage showing young dairy calves being kicked, violently thrown, having their heads stamped into the ground and suffering from heat exposure at a US farm known as the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism” was published this week.

Every year, more than 600,000 tourists visit the Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure, a working dairy farm of 15,000 cows a few hours south of Chicago, Illinois. The farm, with its museum, restaurant and hotel – deemed the “Disneyland of agricultural tourism” this year by Food & Wine – sells a vision of quaint rural life: “It’s where families can view pastures dotted with dairy cattle” and “watch as a piglet is born” before they “top off this idyllic country day with a scoop of ice cream or a pork chop from Fair Oaks Farms’ restaurant”.

The farm is independently owned by veterinarian Mike McCloskey, but it is an affiliate of the Coca-Cola company, with which it produces a nutrient-dense milk product called “Fairlife” and other popular dairy products including Core Power Protein shakes. McCloskey, who co-founded the business with his wife, Sue, has stated that their farm provides in-depth training on humane care of animals.

ARM’s undercover investigator got a job at Fair Oaks as a calf care employee in 2018. The investigator reported that they received no training other than where to put the calves’ dead bodies. Furthermore, violence towards the animals appeared to be commonplace, typically stemming from frustration over the calves’ unwillingness to feed from artificial nipples.

Video footage captured between August and November of 2018 appears to show workers beating, kicking, and throwing the bloodied and emaciated baby animals as their mothers go hoarse calling to them from separated barns.
Primary source material here, with an extensive photo gallery.

Sort of related:



The title is one of the penultimate lines from The Court of Tartary, a fantasy by T.P. Caravan first published in 1963. In the story, a professor of English literature "awakens" to find his mind is entrapped in the body of a cow, and the herd seems to be destined to the slaughterhouse.

"Edward Harrison Dunbar, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., L.L.D., member of the Modern Language Association and authority on eighteenth century literature, was not prepared for the situation in which he found himself: it had never been mentioned by any of the writers of the Age of Reason....

And even as he ran he wondered if he couldn't prove that Edward Young was the true author of the third book of Gulliver's Travels, because he knew that if he stopped thinking scholarly thoughts about the eighteenth century he would have to admit that he had turned into an animal. So as he ran he considered the evidence turned up by the publication of the Tickell papers and the discovery of Swift's old laundry lists and Night Thoughts and the graveyard poets and Gray's Elegy and the lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, and he had to admit that he was an animal....

There was no point in approaching his difficulty through the scientific method: he knew no science. There was no help for him in metaphysics: he had cleared his mind of Kant. Nor could the classics aid him: he had read Ovid, of course, and the Golden Ass, but he didn't see how they bore on his problem. And — he hated to admit it — nobody in the eighteenth century seemed to have wondered what would happen to a scholar who woke up and found himself a cow. All right. That left only his own experience to fall back on. But, being a professor, he had never had any experiences..."
He decides to use his hoof to draw a triangle in the dust.  Then... if I've piqued your curiosity, you can read the full story in ten minutes fulltext online at Scribd.

Industrial methane emissions underestimated by a factor of 100

From the Cornell [University] Chronicle:
Using a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor, the researchers discovered that methane emissions from ammonia fertilizer plants were 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate...

“We took one small industry that most people have never heard of and found that its methane emissions were three times higher than the EPA assumed was emitted by all industrial production in the United States...”

...natural gas is largely methane, which molecule-per-molecule has a stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide...
More at the link.

Tangentially related:  You can "tap" a living tree with a metal pipe and set fire to the methane that is emitted.
"The wood in this particular species naturally has this condition called wetwood, where it's saturated within the trunk of the tree" ... This wetwood makes for a welcoming home for all sorts of microorganisms.

Some of those organisms turned out to be species of archaea that are known methane producers. So it's not the trees themselves that are making the methane, it's the microbes living in the trees.
Video at the link. Via Neatorama.

05 June 2019

The danger of inspirational quotes

"The Last Dance"

Via Neatorama.

Carnival Cruise Lines vs. the environment

The cruise line giant Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary have agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $20 million for environmental violations such as dumping plastic waste into the ocean. Princess Cruise Lines has already paid $40 million over other deliberate acts of pollution...

Miami-based Carnival pleaded guilty Monday to six probation violations, including the dumping of plastic mixed with food waste in Bahamian waters. The company also admitted sending teams to visit ships before the inspections to fix any environmental compliance violations, falsifying training records...

Carnival has had a long history of dumping plastic trash and oily discharge from its ships, with violations dating back to 1993... In 2013, a whistleblowing engineer exposed the illegal dumping of contaminated waste and oil from the company's Caribbean Princess ship. He told authorities that engineers were using a special device called the "magic pipe" to bypass the ship's water treatment system and dump oil waste straight into the ocean...

At the time, Princess told NPR that it chalked up the violations to "the inexcusable actions of our employees."
Million-dollar fines are just a cost of doing business for major corporations.  More details at NPR.


Labeled "Liverpool Champions League parade" via.

04 June 2019

"I Contain Multitudes" - Ed Yong

A tip of the hat to the TYWKIWDBI reader who recommended this book in a comment.  Ed Yong is a multi-award-winning science journalist currently on staff at The Atlantic.   In this book he expands upon a number of his previous essays related to the microbial world and presents a ton of information which I only had time to quickly browse.  Herewith some excerpts:
"To allow our first microbes to colonise our newborn bodies, a special class of immune cells suppresses the rest of the body’s defensive ensemble, which is why babies are vulnerable to infections for their first six months of life. It’s not because their immune system is immature, as is commonly believed: it’s because it is deliberately stifled to give microbes a free-for-all window during which they can establish themselves...
And this:
Milk is a mammalian innovation, common to platypuses and pangolins, humans and hippos, its ingredients varying according to what each species needs. Human milk is a particular marvel. Every mammal mother produces complex sugars called oligosaccharides, but human moth­ers, for some reason, churn out an exceptional variety: so far, scientists have identified more than two hundred human milk oligosaccharides, or H.M.O.s. They are the third-most plentiful ingredient in human milk, after lactose and fats, and their structure ought to make them a rich source of energy for growing babies—but babies cannot digest them.

When German first learned this, he was gobsmacked. Why would a mother expend so much energy manufacturing these complicated chemicals if they were apparently useless to her child? Why hasn’t natural selection put its foot down on such a wasteful practice? Here’s a clue: H.M.O.s pass through the stom­ach and the small intestine unharmed, landing in the large intestine, where most of our bacteria live. What if they aren’t food for babies at all? What if they are food for microbes?...

Human milk has evolved to nourish the microbe, and it, in turn, has evolved into a consummate H.M.O.vore. Unsurprisingly, it is often the dominant microbe in the guts of breast-fed infants.
Or this:
Akkermansia muciniphila, one of the more common species of gut bacteria, is over 3,000 times more common in lean mice than in those genetically predisposed to obesity. If obese mice eat it, they lose weight and show fewer signs of type 2 diabetes.

Gut microbes also partly explain the remarkable success of gastric bypass surgery – a radical operation that reduces the stomach to an egg-sized pouch and connects it directly to the small intestine. After this procedure, people tend to lose dozens of kilograms, a fact typically accredited to their shrunken stomachs. But as a side-effect, the operation also restructures the gut microbiome, increasing the numbers of various species, including Akkermansia. And if you transplant these restructured communities into germ-free mice, those rodents will also lose weight.
All of which makes this more ominous:
"[Antibiotics] are so wantonly used that, on a given day, between one and three per cent of the developed world takes an antibiotic of some kind... even short courses of antibiotics can change the human microbiome..."

Cat hair and dryer lint

Based on something I read somewhere, I decided to repurpose an empty suet feeder by stuffing it with wads of dryer lint and cat fur (harvested humanely with a comb).

Yesterday I was rewarded by seeing a hummingbird hovering at the dangling feeder, pulling some fibers out, dropping them, then selecting some others that she flew away with.

I don't know which she chose; the contents of the feeder are poked in at random (I should probably arrange it with one offering on the left, the other on the right).  Does anyone know from experience which she preferred?

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging hat to reader Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan for commenting that dryer lint is not recommended as material to offer birds for nesting.

Word for the day: reticule

I've encountered this word a number of times during my reading, have looked it up on multiple occasions.  Finally decided to look into it further and found a definitive discussion at JSTOR Daily.
The dramatic change in women’s fashion in the late 1780s—accelerated by the French Revolution of 1789—put an end to the pocket. Bulky underpinnings would have ruined the slim line of the columnar white gowns of the Directoire and Empire, which emulated the diaphanous draperies of classical statuary. Small, handheld purses called “reticules”—often decorated with tassels, fringe, or embroidery— became essential accessories. Women wore “a more or less ornamental bag with each gown, some being fastened to the waist, others suspended by long ribbons from the arm.” In addition to providing much-needed storage, reticules enlivened the simple, high-waisted silhouette while calling attention to newly bared arms and graceful hands. At the same time, women began to wear drawers or underpants, because their gowns were so body-conscious and transparent, and cashmere shawls, for warmth.

The term “reticule” comes from reticulum, the Latin word for “net.” Many of these early reticules were netted, and netting purses became a popular female pastime, as Mr. Bingley noted in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Reticules might also be made of fabric, embroidered or ornamented according to the latest trends, providing a conspicuous and relatively affordable way for women to follow fashion. During Napoleon’s campaigns, reticules mimicked flat military sabretaches, or sported sphinxes, or portraits of Bonaparte himself. In December 1801, the nomenclature was so new that Catherine Wilmot, an English tourist in Paris, felt it necessary to define it in a letter, making reference to the earlier and more familiar form of handbag, the workbag:
We have not seen Bonaparte yet, except adorning ‘Reticules’ (which are a species of little Workbag worn by the Ladies, containing snuff-boxes, Billet-doux, Purses, Handkerchiefs, Fans, Prayer-Books, Bon-bons, Visiting tickets, and all the machinery of existence).
Napoleon’s wife, Joséphine, was instrumental in popularizing the new style of dress, with all its attendant accessories.
There's more information at JSTOR Daily, and additional photos.  "Satirists dubbed the new must-have accessory the “ridicule,” because it was so small and insubstantial as to be virtually useless."

When the weatherman says "scattered showers"

Photo incidentally revealing the location of Joe Btfsplk's home.

Exonerated after being falsely imprisoned for 27 years.

"He's the third Ohio man exonerated after being wrongly accused of the 1975 murder. Imprisoned after the testimony of a 13 year old witness who recanted his testimony last year, saying he was coerced by detectives at the time."

"Kwame Ajamu, 56, was the last of three men exonerated in the 1975 robbery and murder of a Cleveland-area money order salesman. Ajamu was originally sentenced to death, but it was vacated because of a paperwork error. He later earned parole in 2003." Only now being exonerated of all charges.

"The two other accused, Ajamu's brother, Wiley Bridgeman, 60, and Ricky Jackson, 57, were released from prison last month after 39 years."

"Defense attorney Terry Gilbert said that Cuyahoga County prosecutors took a courageous stand not to fight the dismissal of charges against the men. Prosecutors also said they won't stop the trio from seeking more than $4.1 million in compensation from their wrongful imprisonments, reported Cleveland.com. "

"“We were robbed,” Ajamu said. “There will be no offspring when I die. When my brother passes away, that is it. We don’t have children. There will never be another Ronnie Bridgeman."
Photo, and text via (emphasis added).  Photo Tony Dejak/AP.   More information at Wikipedia and Witness to Innocence.

A cat with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

I didn't know this condition occurred in animals.  You learn something every day.

Via the aww subreddit, were a link led me to the Ehlers Danlos Syndrome subreddit (for humans).

More on Ehler-Danlos syndromes.
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