30 August 2019

Lethal dose of fetanyl

Top coment from the Reddit thread:
Just as a point of reference: fentanyl is the most commonly used opioid (morphine-like drug) used in surgeries. We generally dose 50-100 micrograms/0.05-0.1 milligrams initially. This amount is enough to get most people to stop breathing for a few seconds to a few minutes, until the body’s respiratory stimulation defenses kick in. The body then immediately begins downregulating the number of opioid receptors.

This happens so quickly that a second, identical dose given a few minutes later will likely not cause the person to stop breathing at all. It also explains the constant need to increase the dose to get a similar high when abusing an opioid, and why it’s so hard for anyone taking opioids to feel “normal” without them - the body literally adjusts to create a new normal. Without more opioids, feeling “normal” just isn’t possible.

The fentanyl used in hospitals comes in a liquid form, with a concentration of 50 micrograms/ml. There’s very few problems with overdosing, since most of our pain/sedation drugs are given one ml at a time. (Example: morphine is given at 1mg/ml.) So even though the potency of fentanyl is greater than morphine, the dose that is given is less.

As mentioned below, much of the problem with street fentanyl is that it comes in a powdered form that has variable potency, especially after it’s cut. It doesn’t take much fentanyl to “improve” low-grade heroin. If your first hit of fentanyl-laced heroin is mostly heroin, no problem (lower potency heroin = lower dose opioid). If your second hit is mostly fentanyl, you’re dead (higher potency fentanyl = higher dose opioid). That’s how someone can die even when multiple hits have been taken out of the same bag.

TLDR: Medical-grade fentanyl has a very consistent potency and is relatively easy to dose, street fentanyl/heroin is a crap shoot.

Source: am an anesthesiologist.

First-ever Disneyland ticket

Purchased by arrangement in 1955 by Walt Disney's brother Roy Disney.  I was wondering what today's cost is, and found this comment in the Reddit thread: "In 1955 minimum wage in California was .75 cents. A ticket cost an hour and fifteen minutes of hourly pay. Today, California’s minimum wage is $12.00 and ticket admission to just the original Disneyland Park is $149.00. That takes just over eleven and a half hours of work to pay for one ticket admission."


Premiers tomorrow at Venice Film Festival.  "Joker is set in 1981 and follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City."

28 August 2019

Why is Peru on fire?

Found the photo above today - a satellite image from August 22 - showing the locations of fires in South America (if the embed doesn't enlarge, the original will X2).

It's clear there are fires raging through the Amazon.  My impression from internet news reports was that they were largely attributable to the policies of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, and refleced clearing of the forest for industrial-scale farming.

But... the image clearly shows extensive fires in Peru.  And in Bolivia.  And Paraguay.

It may be for similar reasons, but I can't see how Bolsonaro can be implicated by the fires in the other countries.  And if not there, perhaps not in Brazil?  Has it become standard practice for the people of South America to burn off their forests??  Are some of these fires oil drills degassing rather than forests?

I'll send the query to my cousin who is currently in Peru.  In the meantime I'd appreciate opinions from knowledgeable readers.

Addendum: A tip of the blogging hat to reader Colin for providing the link to the relevant NASA Visible Earth page:
Fire activity in the Amazon varies considerably from year-to-year and month-to-month, driven by changes in economic conditions and climate. August 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon, explained Douglas Morton, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. While drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought...

The map above shows active fire detections in Brazil as observed by Terra and Aqua MODIS between August 15-22, 2019. The locations of the fires, shown in orange, have been overlain on nighttime imagery acquired by VIIRS. In these data, cities and towns appear white; forested areas appear black; and tropical savannas and woodland (known in Brazil as Cerrado) appear gray
I was wondering about the black/gray demarcation and also why city lights did not overwhelm the fires (this is a composite image of two methodologies).  But I'm still puzzled by the extra-Brazilian distribution.


"Chick" stools from the Estonian Design House.

Exploring H.M.S. Terror

As reported by National Geographic:
The wreck of H.M.S. Terror, one of the long lost ships from Sir John Franklin’s 1845 expedition to find the Northwest Passage, is astonishingly well preserved, say Parks Canada archaeologists, who recently used small remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) to peer deep inside the historic vessel’s interior...

“We were able to explore 20 cabins and compartments, going from room to room,” says Harris. “The doors were all eerily wide open.” What they saw astonished and delighted them: dinner plates and glasses still on shelves, beds and desks in order, scientific instruments in their cases—and hints that journals, charts, and perhaps even early photographs may be preserved under drifts of sediment that cover much of the interior.

“Those blankets of sediment, together with the cold water and darkness, create a near perfect anaerobic environment that’s ideal for preserving delicate organics such as textiles or paper,” says Harris. “There is a very high probability of finding clothing or documents, some of them possibly even still legible. Rolled or folded charts in the captain’s map cupboard, for example, could well have survived.”..
Just as tantalizing is the possibility that there could be pictures of the expedition awaiting discovery. It’s known that the expedition had a daguerreotype apparatus, and assuming it was used, the glass plates could still be aboard. “And if there are, it’s also possible to develop them,” says Harris. “It’s been done with finds at other shipwrecks. The techniques are there.”
More information at the link and at this CBC report.   There must be a fantastic National Geographic television program in the works.

27 August 2019

Blue lava

One of the hydrothermal sites at Dollol (Ethiopia).  The burning of sulfur generates a characteristic blue flame.  Credit Olivier Grunewald.

Americans continue to drink bleach

As reported by Ars Technica:
The US Food and Drug Administration this week released an important health warning that everyone should heed: drinking bleach is dangerous—potentially life-threatening—and you should not do it. The warning may seem unnecessary, but guzzling bleach is an unfortunately persistent problem.

Unscrupulous sellers have sold “miracle” bleach elixirs for decades, claiming that they can cure everything from cancer to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, flu, hair loss, and more. Some have promoted it to parents as a way to cure autism in children—prompting many allegations of child abuse.

Of course, the health claims are false, not to mention abhorrent. When users prepare the solution as instructed, it turns into the potent bleaching agent chlorine dioxide, which is an industrial cleaner. It’s toxic to drink and can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, life-threatening low blood pressure, acute liver failure, and damage to the digestive tract and kidneys.

In this week’s warning, the FDA noted that some sellers will warn consumers that vomiting and diarrhea are common but say that those unpleasant effects indicate the solution is “working.”

“That claim is false,” the FDA wrote succinctly.
What kind of society have we evolved that it becomes necessary to warn the public - repeatedly - not to drink bleach because someone has suggested they do so??
The FDA says that the products have been hard to scrub out because of claims on social media, where the drinks are promoted along with false health information. Most of the claims can be traced back to Jim Humble, founder and “archbishop” of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, aka “The Church of Bleach.”

Humble has been touting the solution for nearly two decades, referring to it as MMS—Miracle or Master Mineral Solution. (It’s also known as the Miracle Mineral Supplement, the Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, and Water Purification Solution (WPS).) Humble is a former Scientologist who reportedly claims to be a billion-year-old god from the Andromeda galaxy.

Koyanisquatsi in real life

Public housing towers in Hong Kong.   Incredible population density.

Language in "The Mystery of the Yellow Room"

I jotted down a few notes while reading Gaston Leroux' The Mystery of the Yellow Room, a 1907 novel considered to be the first "locked room mystery."

The mystery takes place at a chateau: "The Glandier - ancient Glandierum - was so called from the quantity of glands (acorns) which, in all times, had been gathered in that neighborhood."  A standard French word, from the Old French glant, from the Latin glandem.

"Having explained so far, I cannot refrain from making one further reflexion."  When one ponders or considers a subject, the common term is that one "reflects" on the matter, but it is unexpected to see reflexion (or reflection) used in the noun form in this manner.  A reflection in a mirror, certainly, but as used here I was quite startled.

Now consider these unusual contractions:
"I have n't had them arrested."
"Are n't you satisfied?"
"A keeper is as much a servant as any other, is n't he?"
"But I've made him understand that his face does n't please me..."
I think I've listed a number of unusual contractions in my reviews of John Dickson Carr books, written in the 1930s.  This contracting of not to n't, unjoined to the verb is from decades earlier.  I don't know if this was common usage by copy editors of the time or not.

"When we were in complete darkness, he lit a wax vesta..."  Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth and the home, so I suppose the application of the name to a match is quite appropriate, though nowadays archaic.

"When I left my chamber, at half-past ten, my father was already at work in the laboratory.  We worked together till midday.  We then took half-an-hour's walk in the park, as we were accustomed to do, before breakfasting at the chateau."  Literally this makes logical sense; if you skip the morning meal and break your fast in the afternoon, that meal would be your "break-fast," but it does sound odd to the modern reader.

"Mademoiselle Stangerson threw a fichu shawl over her shoulders..."  A French novelist applies a French term: "Borrowed from French fichu ((noun) triangular scarf; (adjective) got up, put together) (in the sense of something thrown on without much thought), from ficher (to drive something (such as a nail) by its point), ultimately from Latin fīgō (to fasten, fix; to pierce, transfix; to drive (a nail))"

Related: Pildomatist (from Leroux' Phantom of the Opera)

26 August 2019

"Mammoth" amounts of ivory in the arctic

Strange as these facts are we have now to examine something still more remarkable, and to consider the extraordinary phenomenon of the occurrence of enormous masses of elephants’ bones in desolate islands of the Arctic Ocean.

In the icy waters of the Polar Sea to the north of Siberia, there lie islands which are enclosed in ice for the greater portion of the year.

Nevertheless the soil of these desolate islands is absolutely packed full of the bones of elephants and rhinoceroses in such astonishing numbers, that no places in the whole world contain such quantities of elephants’ remains, as do these icy islands in the Arctic Sea...

Such was the enormous quantity of mammoths’ remains, that it seemed to Chwoinoff that the island was actually composed of the bones and tusks of elephants, cemented together by icy sand.

The horns of buffaloes (or rather of musk-oxen) and rhinoceroses were also wonderfully abundant.

The sandy shores and slopes were full of mammoths’ tusks, and when the ice cementing the cliffs was thawed by the heat of the sun, the sand fell down in great quantities, bringing with it great numbers of elephants’ tusks, of which these cliffs seemed to be full...
“And I myself found near bones of a mammoth, pieces of hide and hair, mixed together with earth, and hanging in tufts from the frozen wall of earth. In the bones there was still marrow, which the dogs ate; it looked chalky...
With a hat tip to reader Peter Hendry, who located the source article.

Serbia and Poland (1920) and London (1967)

Many, many more historical videos at Guy Jones' YouTube channel.

25 August 2019

Yes, I'm sure that's exactly what the leaders at the G7 meeting told you

For fox ache.

As much as I would like to cluster all the Trump stuff into the q3monthly "Trump Clumps", there are times when it just gets to be too much and you want to scream at someone.  So tonight I scream into the blog.

I'll close the comment thread and just insert this (unnecessary) image.

You're not as crazy as this person

Via Le Café Witteveen


"Had a baby three weeks ago and bought these. "Pump anywhere," they said. "It's whisper quiet, nobody will know you're pumping at all," they said...."
Extended discussion comparing different breast pumps at the source.

23 August 2019

In Sweden, a "fart" can go backwards or forwards

Explained at Neatorama.

The "hygiene hypothesis" of allergy and autoimmune disorders

This abstract from Clin Exp Immuol provides a concise summary:
According to the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, the decreasing incidence of infections in western countries and more recently in developing countries is at the origin of the increasing incidence of both autoimmune and allergic diseases. The hygiene hypothesis is based upon epidemiological data, particularly migration studies, showing that subjects migrating from a low-incidence to a high-incidence country acquire the immune disorders with a high incidence at the first generation. However, these data and others showing a correlation between high disease incidence and high socio-economic level do not prove a causal link between infections and immune disorders. Proof of principle of the hygiene hypothesis is brought by animal models and to a lesser degree by intervention trials in humans. Underlying mechanisms are multiple and complex. They include decreased consumption of homeostatic factors and immunoregulation, involving various regulatory T cell subsets and Toll-like receptor stimulation. These mechanisms could originate, to some extent, from changes in microbiota caused by changes in lifestyle, particularly in inflammatory bowel diseases. Taken together, these data open new therapeutic perspectives in the prevention of autoimmune and allergic diseases.
Some other excerpts from the publication:
The hypothesis was first proposed by Strachan, who observed an inverse correlation between hay fever and the number of older siblings when following more than 17 000 British children born in 1958... The leading idea is that some infectious agents – notably those that co-evolved with us – are able to protect against a large spectrum of immune-related disorders...

In 1998, about one in five children in industrialized countries suffered from allergic diseases such as asthma, allergic rhinitis or atopic dermatitis. This proportion has tended to increase over the last 10 years, asthma becoming an ‘epidemic’ phenomenon... The prevalence of atopic dermatitis has doubled or tripled in industrialized countries during the past three decades, affecting 15–30% of children and 2–10% of adults... Part of the increased incidence of these diseases may be attributed to better diagnosis or improved access to medical facilities in economically developed countries. However, this cannot explain the marked increase in immunological disorder prevalence that has occurred over such a short period of time in those countries, particularly for diseases which can be diagnosed easily...

The "Sprinkler Rainbow Conspiracy"

An old video, but apparently I've never posted this before.   Just a reminder that people like this exist.

First day of school

The BBC has some context.
When Jill saw the "state" of her daughter on Monday afternoon, she asked what Lucie had been up to.  "Nothing much," Lucie said,

21 August 2019

Divertimento #167

A month and a half since my last non-gif linkfest; incredible amounts of material have accumulated; 
this is less than a third of what I've bookmarked.

She was born during the reign of James I, was a youngster when René Descartes set out his rules of thought and the great fire of London raged, saw out her adolescent years as George II ascended the throne, reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off, and lived through two world wars. Living to an estimated age of nearly 400 years, a female Greenland shark has set a new record for longevity.

Remember: bottled water companies do not produce water; they produce plastic bottles.

A beautifully-designed longread from the BBC on a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils in Wyoming.  ""There's probably enough dinosaur material here to keep a thousand palaeontologists happy for a thousand years."

Plastic recycling is a myth. ‘It’s going to be recycled in China!’ I hate to break it to everyone, but these places are routinely dumping massive amounts of [that] plastic and burning it on open fires.”

Eight questions to ask to jumpstart a conversation when you are getting to know a stranger.

Barack Obama's summer reading list.

Why bounty hunters can break into the wrong home, injure/kill someone and plead innocence.

Man who donated his mother's body to an Arizona center for Alzheimer's research discovers it was sold on to the US Military for $6,000, strapped to a chair and blown up in 'blast test'

The feral dog is one of the most destructive animals in the natural world.

Why you can't find wild broccoli.

American basketball player Donell “D.J.” Cooper has been banned from the sport for two years after his urine test showed evidence of pregnancy.

Why you won't get $125 from the Equifax security breach settlement.

OpEd piece in the Los Angeles Times: "Health Insurance Companies are Useless: Get Rid of Them."
Health insurers have been successful at two things: making money and getting the American public to believe they’re essential.”

Climate change has left a graveyard of abandoned ski resorts on the Italian Alps

Warshipping: Mail a snooping device to a company.  When it gets to the company mailroom, "The device scans for visible wifi networks; once it senses a network associated with its target (indicating that it has arrived on the target company's premises), it alerts its controllers over the cellular radio, and then scans the local wifi for instance in which users' devices are initiating new connections to the network. It captures the handshake data from these connections, transmits them over the cellular network to its controllers, and they can then crack the password offline, send login credentials to the warshipping device, login to the target network, and attack the network from within."

"The Trump administration has reauthorized government officials to use controversial poison devices – dubbed “cyanide bombs” by critics – to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals across the US."

"...lots of election officials, including many in heavily contested districts that have determined the outcomes of national elections (cough Florida cough) just leave their machines connected to the internet all the time, while denying that this is the case, possibly because they don't know any better."

Retail stores are closing in New York City, including Fifth Avenue: "According to recent estimates, certain swaths of Manhattan now have vacancy rates of 25%, when 5% is considered normal. And the carnage is getting worse, with the US forecast to lose 12,000 stores this year – far above 2018’s record losses of more than 5,800 sites."

"The bacteria in and on our bodies make thousands of tiny, previously unidentified proteins... The proteins belong to more than 4,000 new biological families... Because they are so small — fewer than 50 amino acids in length — it’s likely the proteins fold into unique shapes that represent previously unidentified biological building blocks..."

A tiger shows the "eyespots" behind its ears while drinking water (photo at right)

There is a difference between service animals and emotional support animals.  "Nothing can stop people from lying, or exploiting others’ confusion by using the terms “service animal” an “ESA” interchangeably. “The majority of folks who slap a vest on their pet have already crossed that line..."

"As canned cocktails, including ready-to-drink fizzy wine concoctions and portable hard-liquor classics, have become more available across the country, their sales have climbed more than 40 percent in the past year. Sales of boozy seltzers have nearly tripled in the same period... Even real-liquor cocktails such as those packaged by You & Yours tend to keep the alcohol content pretty light, which is a selling point that might feel counterintuitive to older, harder-drinking people. Adults under 40 are reshaping America’s relationship with booze, and for many of them, that means seeking out low- or no-alcohol options."

The Candyland board game was invented for polio patients.

"Contrary to President Donald Trump’s assertion that “our nation is stronger today than it ever was before,” the “Salute to America” looked more like a military antiques road show than a display of a 21st-century military power... The M-1A2 Abrams tanks and M-2 Bradley infantry combat vehicles parked near the Lincoln Memorial represent a generation of armored vehicles that were designed in the 1970s and procured in large numbers during the 1980s. More than three decades later, they remain, albeit with modification, the mainstay of the U.S. Army and have been used in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan...The wars of the future may depend not so much on the kinds of things you can put on parade, but on new technologies that reimagine warfare."

A subreddit devoted to documenting desire paths.

"Scott Amos found the game in the attic of his childhood home in Reno this past Mother's Day after his mom asked him to pick up a few boxes of his childhood stuff. Among the contents was a Nintendo game cartridge for Kid Icarus, still in the bag from J.C. Penney's catalog department three decades earlier."  It's expected to bring $10,000 at auction.

 A cloud that sort of looks like a farting squirrel (at left).

Incredible Zigzag Curveball Illusion.

The counterargument when someone says girls wearing skimpy clothes are "asking for it."

"Former President Reagan in a newly unearthed tape disparaged “monkeys” from African countries during a phone call with then-President Nixon while Reagan was governor of California."

"The 13-year-old boy was flown to Spokane after receiving temporal skull fractures in the incident that happened at the Mineral County Fairgrounds. Witnesses tell MTN News that Curt Brockway grabbed, picked up and slammed the boy on the ground because he did not remove his hat during the national anthem."

"We attached miniaturized radio transmitters (less than 300 mg) to monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and common green darner dragonflies (Anax junius) and tracked their autumn migratory movements through southern Ontario, Canada and into the United States using an automated array of over 100 telemetry towers. The farthest estimated distance a monarch travelled in a single day was 143 km at a wind-assisted groundspeed of 31 km/h."

Redefining a "billionaire."

"On Monday, a Iowa man's request that charges against him be denied for burning LGBT-related library books was denied... Representing himself in court this week, Dorr filed a motion to dismiss his case, arguing arrest violated his First Amendment rights... "Mr. Dorr isn't being sent the message that he cannot burn books when he disagrees with the contents of those books," Mazurek wrote in her ruling. "He is being sent the message that he cannot burn books that do not belong to him."

If you don't like the government of your country, should you leave or stay?

"The Dutch scouting tradition is known as a "dropping," in which groups of children, generally preteenagers, are deposited in a forest and expected to find their way back to base."

The Minnesota Twins have established a new all-time major-league record for most games (nine) in a season with five or more home runs. There are still 36 games to be played before the season ends.  [update - record increased to ten times this season.  Also another record: first baseball team ever to have 8 different players with 20 or more home runs.]

First human case of this parasitic eye worm.  Photo (at right) credit CDC.

A true Cats fan won’t settle for seeing the show once, twice or even 10 times. Just ask Hector Montalvo, 62, a retired product demonstrator from New York. “I wouldn’t call myself a legend,” he says. “Just a patron who loves the show.” But before Cats ended its first Broadway run in 2000, Montalvo had seen 703 performances.

Variety magazine's concise bio of the late Rutger Hauer.

"People who can smoke a bowl and go about their day will find that when they eat a weed candy (or two—is it even working?), they feel like their hands are about to detach from their body. Though cannabis is safer than many other drugs, edibles feel scary to some people because of the heightened delusional symptoms they seem to induce... Indeed, in Colorado, edibles are responsible for a disproportionate share of emergency-room visits, relative to their sales."

"What the oligarchs want is not the same as what the old corporations wanted. In the words of their favoured theorist, Steve Bannon, they seek the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. Chaos is the profit multiplier for the disaster capitalism on which the new billionaires thrive. Every rupture is used to seize more of the assets on which our lives depend. The chaos of an undeliverable Brexit, the repeated meltdowns and shutdowns of government under Trump: these are the kind of deconstructions Bannon foresaw. As institutions, rules and democratic oversight implode, the oligarchs extend their wealth and power at our expense."

Why does Ilhan Omar hate America?

How invasive grasses are overwhelming environments (especially reed canary grass).

If you listened to the BBC's fascinating "Death in Ice Valley" series of podcasts, you'll want to read this followup article.

An Ohio lawmaker who routinely touted his Christian faith and anti-LGBT views has resigned after being caught having sex with a man in his office.  I can't even count the number of times I've read similar reports.  But someone else has tabulated them.

A National Geographic longread about the Canadian tar sands and their environmental impact.

Darius Brown, an awesome kid from Newark, New Jersey, makes bow ties for shelter animals to help them get adopted.

Teens committing hate crimes on a campus didn't realize that their cell phones autoconnected to the school's WiFi under their usernames.

A gallery of "begpackers" - people who backpack to other countries and beg locals for funds to cover their travel expenses.

Rude zipper (image NSFW).

20 August 2019

Down Syndrome couple, married for 25 years

The video is worth three minutes of your time. Photo below cropped from this via.

Cleaning up an old car

It's a bit hyperbolic to call this the "dirtiest car ever!", and the 18 minutes is probably TMI for readers who are not named The Car Guy, but there are some interesting tips and observations made during the video that apply to cleaning a regular car.  Try browsing through it, at least.

This tree stump is "undead"

One of the most interesting things I've learned in recent years is the degree to which trees and other plants communicate with one another.  An old Radiolab podcast covered the topic, and more can be found by asking Mr. Google.  Here's more from a Gizmodo article:
A tree stump in New Zealand is very much alive, thanks to an interconnected root system that benefits both the stump and its neighboring trees. Scientists say this unusual symbiotic arrangement could change our very conception of what it means to be a tree...

On some occasions, these elaborate root systems involve a seemingly dead tree stump, an observation first made in the 1830s. Why living trees should expend resources to support leafless cohorts is not fully understood, nor the extent to which resources are shared among living trees and stumps...

These measurements indicated that the kauri stump is inactive during the day when living trees transpire. But during the night and on rainy days, the tree stump becomes active, circulating water—and presumably carbon and nutrients—through its tissues...

For the stump, the advantages of this arrangement are obvious—it gets to stay alive despite not being able to produce carbohydrates. But as the authors point out in the study, this arrangement may actually be symbiotic in nature.  Joined together, for example, the living trees have enhanced access to resources like water and nutrients. This setup also increases the stability of the trees on the steep forest slope, with the firm, healthy roots working to prevent erosion.
It all makes perfect sense.   There is so much to see in the world if you only take the time to look.

Washing removes numbers and scale from a measuring cup

Discussed at the mildlyinfuriating subreddit.

Professional trucker records his travels

There's an app for this (Fog of the World).  Discussion at the Dataisbeautiful subreddit.

Manure-laden tap water in rural Wisconsin

"Kewaunee County conservation officer Davina Bonness collected this tap water from a homeowner in 2016. It contained animal waste that matched manure spread on a nearby farm field."
As reported by the Wisconsin State Journal:
The majority of private wells in southwestern Wisconsin are substantially polluted with fecal matter as concerns intensify over pollution of rural drinking water, according to a new study.
Results from the independent study released Aug. 1 indicated that 32 of 35 wells — or 91% — contained fecal matter from humans or livestock, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“As a researcher of groundwater for 25 years now, I continue to be amazed by the level of fecal contamination in Wisconsin groundwater,” said Mark Borchardt, a research microbiologist for the U.S. Agricultural Research Service...

During testing in April, it was discovered that some of the wells contained illness-causing pathogens such as salmonella, rotavirus and cryptosporidium...

On July 31, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed new rules aimed at farmers and their use of manure and fertilizer. The regulations would focus on the regions vulnerable to nitrates, another source of groundwater pollution.
But those measures will require authorization by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Rhabdomyolysis urine

The brown color comes from excreted myoglobin, resulting from the breakdown of skeletal muscle.  An impressive specimen, made moreso because it resulted not from major trauma but from participation in a squatting competition.
Xiao Tang, a 19-year-old sophomore at a college in Chongqing, China, was not used to exercise. This, combined with an apparent competitive streak, led to her being hospitalized when she got into an exercise fight on a video chat with an equally competitive friend... "We both did not want to lose and so we kept trying to beat each other," she explained. Neither of them willing to back down and stop squatting first, they both ended up doing over 1,000 squats.
The other girl also got rhabdo.  Brief discussion at the link re her rx and the risk of renal failure.

19 August 2019

Botryoidal chalcedony

Chalcedony ( /kælˈsɛdəni/) is a cryptocrystalline form of silica, composed of very fine intergrowths of quartz and moganite. These are both silica minerals, but they differ in that quartz has a trigonal crystal structure, while moganite is monoclinic. Chalcedony's standard chemical structure (based on the chemical structure of quartz) is SiO2 (silicon dioxide).

Chalcedony has a waxy luster, and may be semitransparent or translucent. It can assume a wide range of colors, but those most commonly seen are white to gray, grayish-blue or a shade of brown ranging from pale to nearly black. The color of chalcedony sold commercially is often enhanced by dyeing or heating.

The name chalcedony comes from the Latin chalcedonius (alternatively spelled calchedonius). The name appears in Pliny the Elder's Naturalis Historia as a term for a translucid kind of Jaspis. The name is probably derived from the town Chalcedon in Asia Minor. The Greek word khalkedon (χαλκηδών) also appears in the Book of Revelation (Apc 21,19). It is a hapax legomenon found nowhere else, so it is hard to tell whether the precious gem mentioned in the Bible is the same mineral known by this name today.
Image viaI rather suspect this specimen has been dyed.  It was described as "natural" at the link,  but the word may have applied to the structural formation rather than the color.

Addendum:  A tip of the blogging cap (and my rockhounding sunhat) to an anonymous reader who found a discussion of this "grape" chalcedony in a mindat discussion thread.  Apparently the color can be natural, and it may be appropriate to consider this a form of amethyst! 

Hundreds of strangers attend an El Paso funeral

Earlier this month, Margie Reckard, 63, was gunned down along with 21 others in the El Paso, Texas, massacre that authorities believe was driven by racial hatred. Two weeks later, strangers amassed by the hundreds to honor Reckard and surround her widower, Antonio Basco.

"Never had so much love in my life," Basco said on Friday as he beheld the crowds, many who waited in triple-digit heat to attend Reckard's memorial service and support a man they had never met.

When Reckard was killed, she left behind Basco, her partner of 22 years, who considered her his only close family. The couple had moved to El Paso a few years earlier and didn't have many local relatives and friends...

The funeral home where Reckard's service had been planned put out a call on Facebook on Tuesday, issuing an open invitation. "Mr. Antonio Basco was Married for 22yrs to his wife Margie Reckard, He had no other family," the post read. "He welcomes anyone to attend his Wife's services."

The response was overwhelming... When he bowed to kiss his wife's casket, it was adorned by flower arrangements sent in from across the world.

"We lost count after 500," Perches said.
The story continues at NPR.

Coal-powered energy plants continue to close

As reported by Scientific American:
When the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona shuts down later this year, it will be one of the largest carbon emitters to ever close in American history.

The giant coal plant on Arizona’s high desert emitted almost 135 million metric tons of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2017, according to an E&E News review of federal figures.

Its average annual emissions over that period are roughly equivalent to what 3.3 million passenger cars would pump into the atmosphere in a single year. Of all the coal plants to be retired in the United States in recent years, none has emitted more.

The Navajo Generating Station isn’t alone. It’s among a new wave of super-polluters headed for the scrap heap. Bruce Mansfield, a massive coal plant in Pennsylvania, emitted nearly 123 million tons between 2010 and 2017. It, too, will be retired by year’s end (Energywire, Aug. 12).

And in western Kentucky, the Paradise plant emitted some 102 million tons of carbon over that period. The Tennessee Valley Authority closed two of Paradise’s three units in 2017. It will close the last one next year (Greenwire, Feb. 14).

 “It’s just the economics keep moving in a direction that favors natural gas and renewables. Five years ago, it was about the older coal plants becoming uneconomic,” said Dan Bakal, senior director of electric power at Ceres, which works with businesses to transition to clean energy. “Now, it’s becoming about every coal unit, and it’s a question of how long they can survive.”..

There’s also this: The vast majority of super-polluters have no closure date in sight. That’s because massive coal plants generally benefit from large economies of scale. Because they crank out power around the clock, their cost of generating electricity is relatively cheap.

“The coal plants remaining have generally installed all the environmental controls,” Larsen said. “There are no additional regulatory threats, or they are cost-effective in a world where gas is $2.50 per MMBtu.”

Hip exosuit (exoskeleton shorts)

I hope they can embed or add a gyroscope to help prevent falls.  Via Boing Boing.

"Club sandwich" offered on a 13-hour flight

Image cropped and brightened from the original posted here

"Northern Cities Vowel Shift"

Perhaps better viewed with "cc" activated (although it contains some errors).

Gender-dependent humor - The Window Cleaner


Found at the now sadly defunct Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.  (Reposted from 10 years ago)

Denmark offers to buy the United States

COPENHAGEN—After rebuffing Donald J. Trump’s hypothetical proposal to purchase Greenland, the government of Denmark has announced that it would be interested in buying the United States instead.

“As we have stated, Greenland is not for sale,” a spokesperson for the Danish government said on Friday. “We have noted, however, that during the Trump regime pretty much everything in the United States, including its government, has most definitely been for sale.”..

If Denmark’s bid for the United States is accepted, the Scandinavian nation has ambitious plans for its new acquisition. “We believe that, by giving the U.S. an educational system and national health care, it could be transformed from a vast land mass into a great nation,” the spokesperson said.
Excerpted from The Borowitz Report in The New Yorker.

Mussel has natural googly eyes


Stephen Jay Gould's "Great Asymmetry"

First elucidated in an article in Science in 1998,...
As an example of the misuse of science and technology for destructive and immoral ends (usually quite contrary to the inventor's genuine intent as well), the guillotine hardly merits a glance compared with such efficient agents of wartime destruction as gunpowder, napalm, or atomic weaponry—not to mention the truly unintended and purely consequential impacts of technology on global environments, human social problems, and biodiversity...

The essence of human tragedy... lies in the power of politics, reaction, and irrationality to overwhelm the still, small voice of science, and even to use its tools of intended benevolence for perverse ends...

Homo sapiens is not an evil or destructive species. But the architecture of structural complexity—the great asymmetry of my title—permits moments to undo what only centuries can build. The essential human tragedy, and the true source of science's potential misuse for destruction, lies in the ineluctable nature of this great asymmetry, not in the character of knowledge itself. We perform 10,000 acts of small and unrecorded kindness for each surpassingly rare, but sadly balancing, moment of cruelty...
... Gould reaffirmed his view in a NYT opinion piece in 2001:
Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people. Complex systems can only be built step by step, whereas destruction requires but an instant. Thus, in what I like to call the Great Asymmetry, every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the ''ordinary'' efforts of a vast majority.

17 August 2019

"Sack it to me"

My cousin's son, competing today for the Minnesota state championship at the Mall of America.  Readers of TYWKIWDBI who may be at the mall today will know who to cheer for.

Go Paul!

Addendum -  Some viewers may be bewildered by the notice above so here's the ELI5:  the placing of groceries in paper bags goes back in my memory to probably the 1950s, when most grocery stores had young men doing the "bagging" and carrying the groceries out to your car for you.  The process has been "modernized" by the advent of plastic bags and the expectation that shoppers will carry or push a cart of groceries to the parking area.

A variety of generally upscale grocery stores have maintained the old tradition intact.  The Minnesota Grocers Association explains as follows:
MGA Best Bagger Contest – August 17 at The Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
A dynamic, fast-paced competition where grocery baggers from across the state show off their bagging skills to be Minnesota’s best. This contest is important to the MGA and its membership because it showcases the talents of one of our key employees.  The bagger is the person responsible for the last experience customers have at our stores. They truly represent customer service.
To get to today's championship, Paul first had to win an in-store competition at the Lunds/Byerlys located in Wayzata.  He then competed against the winners from the other Lunds/Byerlys stores in the region.  Now he represents the company at this statewide competition against the winners from other grocery store chains in Minnesota, with the winner proceeding to the national championship in San Diego ($10,000 grand prize).

Here are the judging criteria.  It's not just a matter of speed.

Apparently Paul has acquired a cheering section at the Mall of America -

Unfortunately I'm in Madison Wisconsin with errands to run and chores to do.  I'll update this post tomorrow.

Update:  Paul will not be traveling to San Diego to compete in the nationals; he performed well on the time component, but did not have the best distribution of weight between bags (see criteria above).     It was, however, an enjoyable experience for him.  I'll monitor YouTube to see if any videos of the competition are posted.

16 August 2019


Image cropped for size and desaturated from the image posted here.

1.4 million lakes (10 ha or larger)

I'll save U.S. readers a click: 10 hectares (hectare = 10,000 square meters) is about 25 acres.  The map can be enlarged once at the MapPorn source, where I took a screencap of my favorite part of the country:

The "wide AM" - an uncommon variety of the 1999 Lincoln penny

The US Mint produced two major varieties of the 1999 Lincoln Memorial Cent (Penny). The most common variety for the Philadelphia-minted 1999 is the close "AM" variety...

In the word "AMERICA" on the reverse of the coin: The close "AM" meant that the letters "A" and "M" were very close and almost touching while the wide "AM" had the two letters separated much more. In Addition: The initials "FG" was closer to the Lincoln Memorial Building on the wide "AM" variety and it was further away on the close "AM" variety. The difference between the close "AM" and wide "AM" varieties are shown in the example image below... 

USA Coin Book Estimated Value of 1999 Lincoln Memorial Penny (Wide AM Variety) is Worth $518 or more in Uncirculated (MS+) Mint Condition 
I can't tell what year the source article was written.  Can any readers with numismatic knowledge estimate a current value for circulated coins?

Why the turtle can't leave its shell


Trash cans reimagined

Explained by the poster at the HumansBeingBros subreddit -
In Norway you get a small amount of money for recycling bottles/cans. They're often collected by poor people, homeless etc. A lot of our trash cans have these holders around them so people don't have to search through the trash to collect them.
- where another Redditor posted this image of a trash can in Denmark angled so that those on bicycles can more expeditiously dispose of their water bottles:

The problems of minimum wage, lucidly explained

A five-minute summary shows how the inflation-adjusted minimum wage is lower now than in 1960, how congressional step-changes to the wage are difficult for employers to predict and manage, and how different the United States is from the rest of the world in the implementation of this measure.

I didn't see the narrator's name.  She sounds remarkably like This American Life's Zoe Chace.

Screencap from the video:

And for the record....

About those dimples on the sides of milk jugs - updated

I had never paid attention to these dimples before; if I had I would have assumed they were to facilitate gripping the jug, but they are on the wrong side and seemingly superfluous for that purpose when a handle is present on the other side.

I have seen claims that these are pressure relief valves that pop out if the jug is dropped or the milk spoils and produces gases or freezes, or that they are structural supports for an otherwise smooth wall, or that they allow the size of the container to be varied without changing the mold,

As soon as this jug is empty I'm going to test the pressure-relief theory by dropping a water-filled one and/or freezing it.


It worked - sorta.   When the jug was empty I refilled it with water, adjusting the level to match the new unopened jug (airspace about 5cc under the cap).  I then tightened the cap and took the jug to the driveway, where I dropped it from waist level to simulate a shopper's misadventure...

Both dimples popped, one of them blowing out completely.  I'll plan to try once more, next time dropping from a lower height.

14 August 2019

"Wing pollination" of azaleas by swallowtails

The most interesting thing I've read about butterflies this year was a study by Mary Jane Epps, an assistant professor of biology at Mary Baldwin College who examined the reproduction of flame azaleas, publishing her results last August in The American Naturalist.  Here's the abstract:
Although many angiosperms are serviced by flying pollinators, reports of wings as pollen vectors are rare. Flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) is visited by diverse insects, yet previous observations suggested that only butterfly wings may transfer pollen to stigmas. We used an experimental approach to determine whether butterfly wings are the primary vehicle of pollination in flame azalea. Over two seasons of observations, only butterflies (Papilio glaucus and Speyeria cybele) contacted both anthers and stigmas, yet because of differences in wing-flapping behavior, P. glaucus transferred pollen most efficiently. In contrast, bee species specialized either on pollen or nectar but did not contact both anthers and stigmas. A field experiment revealed that flowers excluding butterflies experienced almost complete fruit failure, whereas fruit set in open flowers did not differ from those that were hand pollinated. Additionally, butterflies had 56-fold more azalea pollen on their wings than bodies, while azalea stigmas bore both pollen and wing scales. These results suggest that plants with many visitors contacting reproductive organs may still specialize on a single guild of visitors for pollination and that wing-borne pollen transfer is a key mode of flame azalea pollination.
Every reader of this blog will be familiar with mechanisms of pollination by bees and similar small insects, which transfer pollen on their bodies and feet.  This becomes a problem when the blossoms are large:
“In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator – usually an insect – has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, the distance between these two structures meant that it was unlikely for a bee or other small pollinator to come into contact with both anther and stigma during a visit.”

The researchers discovered something else interesting – the pollen was most likely being transferred by the butterflies’ wings, instead of their bodies. “We observed two species of butterfly that frequented these flowers: the eastern tiger swallowtail and the great spangled fritillary. However, the majority of the butterflies were the swallowtails, who differ from the fritillaries because they tend to keep moving their wings even when gathering nectar from a flower,” Epps says. “The constant fanning motion gives the wings a number of contacts with both anther and stigma, making the swallowtails more efficient at pollination.”
I've noticed this behavior in our back yard, when Tiger Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails constantly flutter their wings while visiting large blossoms (not azaleas at our latitude).  In the past I considered this wing motion a nuisance because it frustrated my attempts to get good photographic images, but I assumed it was done to achieve aerodynamic stability (though it doesn't occur with almost-as-big fritillaries, who hold their wings quite still).

Here's one additional relevant photo, of Spicebush swallowtails on azalea, by Jim McCormac:

Top photo: Great Spangled Fritillary on a flame azalea, by Suzanne Allison, via NC State University College of Sciences News.

Reposted from 2016 to append this photo of a Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) nectaring on Monarda ("bee balm") in our front yard yesterday.

A surprisingly sharp image.  This fellow was so eager for the nectar that he let me get an inch away with my cellphone.  The Monarda (and the phlox behind it) was very busy with bees and butterflies (also a Monarch, two Painted Ladies, and a Silver-spotted Skipper).
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