24 September 2019

Excerpts from "Saints and Strangers"

An interesting, detailed, and heavily annotated read for those curious about the aspects of early American history that are not typically discussed in high school or collegiate classrooms.  Saints and Strangers focuses on the Pilgrims, distinguishing them from the Puritans and other early colonists.  It is well written with a captivating style; these excerpts may whet your interest in reading the entire book.

"Far from being Victorians, they were children of another and a greater age, the Elizabethan, and in their lives reflected many of the qualities of that amazing age – its restlessness and impatience with old ways, its passionate enthusiasms, its eager curiosity and daring speculation in all fields, its boldness in action, its abounding and apparently inexhaustible energies."

"Pilgrims were Elizabethan, too, in their acceptance of the simpler joys of life.  The practiced no macerations of the flesh, no tortures of self-denial.  They appreciated the pleasures of the table and of the bottle, liked both “strong waters” and beer, especially the latter, never complaining more loudly of their hardships than when necessity reduced them to drinking water, which they always regarded with suspicion as a prolific source of human ills.  They were not monks or nuns in their intimate relations as their usually numerous families and more than occasional irregularities attest. Fond of the comforts of connubial bed and board, they married early and often and late, sometimes within a few weeks of losing a mate.  Only on the Sabbath did they go about in funereal blacks and grays.  Ordinarily they wore the russet browns and Lincoln green common among the English lower classes from which they sprang."

"But the passengers [on the Mayflower] had one bond in common.  All were lower class from the cottages, and not the castles of England, a strong cohesive force at a time when society was still rigidly stratified, with rights and privileges concentrated at the top. There was not a drop of blue blood to be found anywhere among them on the Mayflower, as these Pilgrims were all too aware from the poverty and other disabilities that they suffered. They were of the common people and in conscious revolt against the autocratic principle - a fact which seems to have escaped some of their descendants with their pathetic interest in coats of arms and proofs of blood."

"There was a fourth and much larger group sharply set off from all the others - the indentured servants. These were not servants in our sense of the word. They were not housemaids, butlers, cooks, valets, or general flunkies to wait upon the personal needs of the Pilgrims. On the contrary, they were brought along to do the heaviest kind of labor. They were to fell trees, hew timbers, build houses, clear fields and plough them, tend crops, gather the harvest, and do whatever their masters ordered. During the period of their indenture, which usually ran for seven years, they were fed, clothed, and housed by their masters, but received no wages, being virtually slaves, and were frequently bought, sold, and hired out as such."  [later]: "In 1627, Wollaston gathered up some servants, sailed for Virginia, and there sold them to local tobacco planters for the period of their indenture."  "In New England servants were "sold upp and Downe like horses..." [later] "Early in the war Captain Church had persuaded the Indians around the town of Dartmouth not to join Philip but to follow him to Plymouth; here they were seized and shipped off to Tangiers to be sold as slaves."  "As Indian captives - men, women, and children - continued to pour into Plymouth, all were sold into slavery, some to local planters, the majority in the West Indies."

"As is evident from the merest glance at the history of Plymouth, the Pilgrim leaders did not believe in equalitarian democracy though they were moving in that direction.  They favored a change in the hierarchical structure above them, but not below."

[after taking stores of corn saved by the native Americans for the winter]:  "This was just plain larceny, of course, but the Pilgrims were inclined to regard it as another special providence of God.  And in a sense it was, for without this seed corn they would have had no crops the next year, "as ye sequell did manyfest," and all would have starved to death... The Indians needed it for the same purpose, but if this thought ever occurred to the Pilgrims, they brushed it aside, pleading their necessity."

[they also dug into mounds they knew to be graves]  "Still musing upon the mystery of the yellow-haired man, the Pilgrims closed the grave, having removed "sundrie of the prettiest things" to take away with them."

[lack of planning] "As yet they had "got but one cod," largely because these aspiring fishermen had failed to bring along proper gear, specifically wanting nets and small hooks."

"Neither now nor later did the Pilgrims build log cabins, for the good reason that they did not know how... the log cabin, apparently so  native to the American scene, is actually a foreign importation, Scandinavian in origin..."

"A combined Massachusetts and Connecticut force had wreaked a terrible vengeance upon the Pequot.  Trapping some severn hundred of them - men, women, and children -... the English... fell upon the encampment with fire, sword, blunderbuss, and tomahawk... Flames consumed almost all, and it was a fearful sight, said the Pilgrims in phrases quoted with delight and without acknowledgement by Cotton Mather, "to see them thus frying in ye fyer, and ye streams of blood quenching ye same, and horrible was ye stinck and sente thereof; but ye victory seemed a sweete sacrifice, and they gave prayse therof to God."  "Male prisoners were shipped to the West Indies and sold as slaves.  Young squaws and maidens were divided among the soldiers."

"The right to vote was restricted to freemen, and it was not easy to attain that status.  All had to pass a minute examination of their religious views and moral character... In 1643, when the colony contained some 3,000 people, there were just 232 freemen.  Nor were all of these entitled to vote.  The franchise was limited to those with a rateable estate of at least [$1,000]."

"... many pewter dishes pots, and flagons - but no forks, for the Pilgrim Fathers and their families, like everybody else at the time, ate with their fingers or their knives."

"A confession should never be forced by putting the accused on oath, but on occasion - and this was one - the magistrates "may proceede so farr to bodily torments as racks, hot-irons, &c."

"Abandoning this fundamental [voluntary fellowship of church] of their faith, they now made support of the church compulsory, a legal obligation upon all - one of the "tyrannies" they had found so intolerable in the Anglican church."

[children] " were guilty, too... of sitting down during two-hour prayers..."

"And to keep Anglicans in their place, it was now a crime... to celebrate Christmas by "forbearing of labour, feasting, or in any other way."... Nor did they follow the Puritans in slicing off the Quakers' ears, branding them with hot irons, flaying them with tarred ropes, beating them senseless with iron rods, burning their books, and confiscating everything they owned in guise of a fine."

"Though New England had no public school system worthy of the name for almost two centuries..."

"... Bradford had denied the 'libel' that women had acquired any new rights or privileges at Plymouth.  "Touching our governemente," he wrote indignantly, "you are quite mistaken if you think we admite weomen... to have to do in the same, for they are excluded, as both reason and nature teacheth they should be."  Education of girls was a vain and idle thing, the Pilgrim Fathers agreed.  At best, it was a silly affectation; at worst, a danger to the established order."

"Supper was much like breakfast, with the addition of gingerbread, cake, cheese, or pie - all washed down with beer, which was drunk at all meals, even by younger children."

[re getting land from the native Americans]:  "Captain Standish, Constant Southworth, and Samuel Nash obtained a tract fourteen miles square at Bridgewater for seven coats, eight hoes, nine hatchets, ten and a half yard of cotton cloth, twenty knives, and four "moose" skins.  One day, when exploring the Cape beyond Eastham, a party of pilgrims pointed to a particular section and asked the Indians who owned it.  "Nobody" was the Indians' reply, meaning everybody.  "In that case," said the Pilgrims, "it is ours."

But the English attitude toward the natives' rights was never more succinctly expressed than by a town meeting at Milford, Conecticut, in 1640:  "Voted, that the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; voted, that the earth is given to the Saints; voted, that we are the Saints."

23 September 2019

Canine frisbee

Via the oddlysatisfying subreddit.

The long and winding road...

... is 24Crankle-Stilwell Road in Guizhou, China (photographed during a hill climb rally.

Credit: China Foto Press/Barcroft Media, via The Telegraph.

Reposted from 2011 because I realized I've never blogged the song, which is one of my all-time favorites:

"The Long and Winding Road" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles from their 1970 album Let It Be... When issued as a single in May 1970, a month after the Beatles' break-up, it became the group's 20th and last number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. It was the final single released by the quartet.

The main recording of the song took place in January 1969 and featured a sparse musical arrangement. When preparing the tapes from these sessions for release in April 1970, producer Phil Spector added orchestral and choral overdubs. Spector's modifications angered McCartney to the point that when the latter made his case in the British High Court for the Beatles' disbandment, he cited the treatment of "The Long and Winding Road" as one of six reasons for doing so. New versions of the song with simpler instrumentation were subsequently released by McCartney and by the Beatles.

Paul McCartney said he came up with the title "The Long and Winding Road" during one of his first visits to his property High Park Farm, near Campbeltown in Scotland, which he purchased in June 1966. The phrase was inspired by the sight of a road "stretching up into the hills" in the remote Highlands surroundings of lochs and distant mountains. He wrote the song at his farm in 1968, inspired by the growing tension among the Beatles.

A headline we really, really didn't want to see

An excerpt from the report at Gizmodo:
An explosion at Russia’s State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology (Vector) resulted in a fire, glass blown out throughout the building, and one worker suffering third degree burns on Monday, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Vector is one of the only two places in the world where live smallpox virus samples are officially stored, as well as retains stocks of other deadly pathogens including the Ebola virus and anthrax spores.

The Dies Irae in movies

Via Neatorama.

This skull was extensively trepanned. For scruples. Updated.

Explained at io9:
Researchers at the University of Pisa, Italy, have solved a longstanding mystery around the honeycombed skull of one of the Italian martyrs beheaded by 15th century Ottoman Turk invaders when they refused to give up their Christian faith...

The skull was later drilled, most likely to obtain bone powder to treat diseases such as paralysis, stroke, and epilepsy, which were believed to arise from magical or demonic influences...

"The perfectly cupped shape of the incomplete perforations leads(us) to hypothesize the use of a particular type of trepan, with semi-lunar shaped blade or rounded bit; a tool of this type could not produce bone discs, but only bone powder," Fornaciari said...

This would make the Otranto skull a unique piece of evidence supporting historical accounts on the use of skull bone powder as an ingredient in pharmacological preparations...

Indeed, in his Pharmacopée universelle, a comprehensive work on pharmaceutical composition, French chemist Nicolas Lémery (1645 –1715) detailed how powdered human skull drunk in water was effective to treat "paralysis, stroke, epilepsy and other illness of the brain."

"The dose is from half scruple up to two scruples," Lémery wrote.

"The skull of a person who died of violent and sudden death is better than that of a man who died of a long illness or who had been taken from a cemetery: the former has held almost all of his spirits, which in the latter they have been consumed, either by illness or by the earth," he added.
Yes, I had to look it up too:
Scruple: a unit of apothecary weight, with symbol ℈. It is a twenty-fourth part of an ounce, or 20 grains, or approximately 1.3 grams. More generally, any small quantity might be called a scruple.  
Note this harvesting of bone powder with a trepan tool is a bit different from trepanning to treat disease in the patient on whom it is done.

Reposted from 2015 to add this photo of a trepanned cow skull:

Here's the abstract:
The earliest cranial surgery (trepanation) has been attested since the Mesolithic period. The meaning of such a practice remains elusive but it is evident that, even in prehistoric times, humans from this period and from the Neolithic period had already achieved a high degree of mastery of surgical techniques practiced on bones. How such mastery was acquired in prehistoric societies remains an open question. The analysis of an almost complete cow cranium found in the Neolithic site of Champ-Durand (France) (3400-3000 BC) presenting a hole in the right frontal bone reveals that this cranium underwent cranial surgery using the same techniques as those used on human crania. If bone surgery on the cow cranium was performed in order to save the animal, Champ-Durant would provide the earliest evidence of veterinary surgical practice. Alternatively, the evidence of surgery on this cranium can also suggest that Neolithic people practiced on domestic animals in order to perfect the technique before applying it to humans.
The full study is published in Nature (via Gizmodo).

Editorial comment:  I do wish that people would stop referring to trepanation as "brain surgery."  It is - as the Nature article authors state - "cranial surgery."

Reposted (again) from 2018 to add new information about obelion trepanation:
Archaeologists were excavating a prehistoric burial site close to the city of Rostov-on-Don in the far south of Russia, near the northern reaches of the Black Sea...

Finding multiple skeletons in the same prehistoric grave is not particularly unusual. But what had been done to their skulls was: the two women, two of the men and the teenage girl had all been trepanned...

They had all been made in almost exactly the same location: a point on the skull called the "obelion". The obelion is on the top of the skull and towards the rear, roughly where a high ponytail might be gathered...

The obelion point is located directly above the superior sagittal sinus, where blood from the brain collects before flowing into the brain's main outgoing veins. Opening the skull in this location would have risked major haemorrhage and death.

This suggests the Copper Age inhabitants of Russia must have had good reason to perform such trepanation procedures. Yet none of the skulls showed any signs of having suffered any injury or illness, before or after the trepanation had been performed.

Now Gresky, Batieva and other archaeologists have teamed up to describe all 12 of the obelion trepanations from Southern Russia. Their study was published in April 2016 in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
The story continues at the BBC.

22 September 2019

Language in John Cheever's "The Wapshot Chronicle"

Not an exciting plot.  The book is a narrative describing the lives of members of a New England family, so the events recorded are domestic, conventional, and frankly rather prosaic.  It's as though you were to go to a dinner party, sit next to a neighbor you've never met, and ask them to "tell me about your life."  But Cheever does tell a story well, and he received the National Book Award for this, his first novel.  I can understand why he was a best-selling novelist and a popular writer for The New Yorker and other magazines.

So, no reason to discuss the content, but I will share some words and phrases that were new to me.

"... as if he, bred on that shinbone coast and weaned on beans and codfish..."  Despite a lot of searching I couldn't find a clear explanation of this term.  Most links came back the quote from this book.  There are scattered references to Shinbone Alleys from Maine to Missouri (discussed - but not explained - here).

"Captn Webb's little boy was trod upon by a horse and died before candlelight."  Obvious meaning in context, but an interesting phrase I've not previously encountered.

"... proud of his prowess in negotiating the dilapidated and purblind vehicle over the curving roads..."  Partially blind, or obtuse.  Not sure how it applies to a vehicle unless the headlights are inadequate.

"It is one of those [bus] lines that seem to carry the scrim of the world - sweet-natured but browbeaten women shoppers, hunchbacks and drunks."   ??? couldn't find this in anything that matches the sense of the sentence.

"Put that [lobster] down, Miss Honora," he shouts.  "They ain't pegged, they ain't pegged yet."  The Penobscot Maritime Museum explains that prior to today's rubber bands, lobster claws were immobilized with whittled wooden plugs.

"...  and they had had a brace or more of those days when the earth smells like a farmer's britches - all timothy, manure and sweet grass."   Of course I know what "britches" are, but I had to look up the etymology.   It's a variation of "breeches," which goes back to Middle English and were typically "smallclothes" (knee-length).

"On the other half was the farm at St. Botolphs, the gentle valley and the impuissant river..."  Impotent (puissant related to Latin posse [be able]); presumably means a slowly-flowing river.

"... how they would have burned the furniture, buried the tin cans, holystoned the floors, cleaned the lamp chimneys..."  "As a scouring stone... from its association with Sunday cleaning, from its users' adoption of a kneeling position similar to prayer, and (least likely) from their original provision by raiding graveyards for tombstones.

"Leander looked into the bushes and found what he wanted - an old duck-shooting battery."  Not sure how it's defined; here's a floating one.

"The rector was a pursy man in clericals, and sure enough, while they stood there, he began to scratch his stomach."   Short-winded, especially from corpulence.  "Late Middle English reduction of Anglo-Norman French porsif, alteration of Old French polsif, from polser ‘breathe with difficulty’, from Latin pulsare ‘set in violent motion’."

"Writer's epistolary style (Leander wrote) formed in tradition of Lord Timothy Dexter, who put all punctuation marks, prepositions, adverbs, articles, etc., at end of communication and urged reader to distribute same as he saw fit."   A real person (see the link).

"One more Indian.  Joe Thrum.  Lived on hoopskirts of town."  We all know what the "outskirts" of town are.  Would "hoopskirts" be under (inside) the outskirts???

"It was a chance to see the countryside and the disappointing southern autumn with its fireflies and brumes..."  Mist, fog.  "from French brume "fog" (14c.), in Old French, "wintertime," from Latin bruma "winter, winter solstice," perhaps with an etymological sense "season of the shortest day," from *brevima, contracted from brevissima, superlative of brevis "short"."

"Never told her facts in case.  Laconism, like blindness, seems to develop other faculties.  Powers of divination."  Extreme brevity in speech.  Derivation from a place name (Lakonia) in Greece, which was near Sparta.  Interesting in that "spartan" also means sparing or limited.

"Listened all night to troubled speaking; also moiling of sea.  Seemed from sound of waves to be flat, stony beach."  Churning, swirling.  From French and Lain words connoting softness.

"It was after supper and the latrines were being fired and the smoke rose up through the coconut palms."  (U.S. armed forces in South Pacific).  Does anyone know if it was a military custom among U.S. (or other troops) to set fire to latrines??  [answered with an interesting link in the Comments]

"... for here all the random majesty of the place appeared spatchcocked, rectified and jumbled; here, hidden in the rain, were the architect's secrets and most of his failures."  A way of preparing eel or chicken meat by splitting it open - but the term also means "a rushed effort."

"... like West Farm, a human burrow or habitation that had yielded at every point to the crotchets and meanderings of a growing family."  Whim or fancy [archaic].

"At another turn in the path a man as old as Leander, in the extremities of eroticism, approached him, his body covered with brindle hair.  "This is the beginning of all wisdom," he said to Leander, exposing his inflamed parts."  Streaked or striped when referring to animal coats.

Quite a few interesting words in a rather brief novel.  By contrast, Stephen King's Doctor Sleep yielded only five new words in 500+ pages:
"Let's see if Danny's up and in the doins."  Probably awake, active, doing things.

"... Walnut, the True's jackleg doctor..."  Amateur, incompetent.

"Once away from I-80 and out in the toolies, they spread apart..."  A Canadian expression meaning out in the boondocks "It is a respelling of "tule," one of a couple species of bulrush, found especially in California. The word is from the Aztec "tullin." So "the tules" are swamps. "Tule fog" is fog over swamps or other low ground."

"... when the True Knot moved across Europe in wagons, selling peat turves and trinkets."  Plural of turf.

"The key to survival in the world of rubes was to look as if you belonged, as if you were always on the goodfoot..."  Meaning implicit in the usage, but I couldn't find any info elsewhere.

Happy birthday to great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandma

(She was a "hundred-and-one" years old.)

Via Neatorama.

Related:  It takes guts to make a cake like this.

Half of all Canadians live south of the red line

Yes, I know this projection distorts the relative size of subpolar regions, but the population distribution is still striking.

Via the MapPorn subreddit, where the discussion thread seems to focus on who stole the Great Lakes.

Google Streetview map

Almost no coverage of Germany and Austria except for major urban areas.

This gives me an excuse to ask a question.  I thought there was an app or a website or a command one could execute in Google Maps that would automatically scroll through the images from point A to point B without having to go click-by-click (which can be tedious).   If so, I've lost the link or the knowledge of how to do this.

Via the Europe subreddit.

"He Stopped Loving Her Today" - George Jones

I understand that not everyone likes country music - at least not when they're sober.  But this is a classic that I've just added to a CD of favorite music.  The most extensive discussion of the artist and the song I could find was at Mix:
Born in 1931 in Saratoga, Texas, Jones was the youngest of eight children. During the Depression, his family was the kind of poor that no one born post-World War II can really imagine... In the late '60s, Jones met and fell in love with Tammy Wynette, who also became his third wife... By the time he met Wynette, Jones already had a serious drinking problem...

“In the 1970s, I was drunk the majority of the time,” Jones writes. “I had drunk heavily for years and had pitched benders that might last two or three days, but in the 1970s, I was drunk the majority of the time for half a decade... By the end of the decade, Jones was psychologically and physically a shadow of his former self; he was broke and alone, and his pitiable condition was being perpetuated by managers and pushers who were living off of what was left of him. It took a career record... to help Jones begin to climb out of that hole...

One thing kind of funny about it was that the melody was so close to ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night’ [by Kris Kristofferson] that George kept singing the melody to ‘Help Me Make It Through the Night.’ He couldn't get that out of his head. That gave him a bit of a problem early on, and they took their time to get the narration just right.”...

The narration part of the song consists of four lines Jones speaks rather than sings: “She came to see him one last time/And we all wondered if she would/And it kept running through my mind/This time he's over her for good.” “Pretty simple, eh?” Jones asks in his book. “I couldn't get it. I had been able to sing while drunk all of my life. I'd fooled millions of people. But I could never speak without slurring when drunk. What we needed to complete that song was the narration, but Billy could never catch me sober enough to record four simple spoken lines. It took us about 18 months to record a song that was approximately three-minutes long.”...

“I went from a twenty-five-hundred-dollar act who promoters feared wouldn't show up to an act who earned twenty-five thousand dollars, plus a percentage of the gate receipts. That was big money for a country artist 16 years ago… To put it simply, I was back on top. Just that quickly. I don't want to belabor this comparison, but a four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song.”

“He Stopped Loving Her Today” earned Jones a Grammy Award for Best Country Male Performance in 1980. It also resulted in CMA Awards for Best Male Vocalist of the Year in 1980 and 1981, and it was the Academy of Country Music Single of the Year and Song of the Year in 1980.
Reposted from 2012 to commemorate George Jones' death today at age 82.  And reposted again from 2013 because it's still one of my favorite songs.

Monarch at a baseball game

One announcer seems to think the Monarch is attracted to the color of the glove.  The real reason is almost certainly the presence of old salt (dried sweat) on the glove.

Students opting out of standardized testing

As reported by the StarTribune:
One by one that morning, his students came to his office at the charter school in the Iron Range community of Warba and handed him the same thing: a form, signed by a parent, opting them out of taking the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, or MCAs.

“I had a line of kids out the door, just [handing in] the forms,” he said.

By the time he reached the end of the line, Hamernick had excused nearly all the school’s students from testing: Out of about 50 students eligible to take the exams, only 10 sat for the math test and four for reading. The rest were put on a bus and sent to the town’s community center, where teachers scrambled to put together an impromptu day of classes...

Around the state, the rate of students choosing to bypass the state’s largest standardized exams has been steadily rising for more than a decade. Though the overall number of students opting out statewide remains low — just under 2% declined to take the math test last year, and about 1.5% opted out of reading — there are a growing number of schools where more than half the students don’t take the MCAs...

And perhaps of greater concern: When opt outs reach a certain level, the usefulness of the test score data becomes a serious question. Minneapolis has already reached that threshold, at least in some schools. A 2017 report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor found that the rate of opt-outs among Minneapolis high school students had already “reached the point where it is no longer appropriate to endorse the test results as a valid measure of districtwide student learning.”

Saying goodbye to cameras

And note the different vertical scales for the two datasets.  Via.

Posted because I'm in the process of deciding what to do with my old hiking companion of the 1970s - a Minolta XE-7 with 28-80 wide-angle to zoom macro lens, plus a padded holster, extension tubes, and assorted filters and accessories.  I enjoyed a couple decades of wildflower and nature photography, but now practicality trumps sentiment.  Really sorry to see this stuff go (if I can find a place for it to go).



18 September 2019

Fondly remembering Cokie Roberts

Excerpts from a tribute at NPR:
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts, who joined an upstart NPR in 1978 and left an indelible imprint on the growing network with her coverage of Washington politics before later going to ABC News, has died. She was 75.  Roberts died Tuesday because of complications from breast cancer, according to a family statement.

A bestselling author and Emmy Award winner, Roberts was one of NPR's most recognizable voices and is considered one of a handful of pioneering female journalists — along with Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer and Susan Stamberg — who helped shape the public broadcaster's sound and culture at a time when few women held prominent roles in journalism...

Liasson said it wasn't so much that NPR had a mission for gender equality but that the network's pay, which was well below the commercial networks of the day, resulted in "a lot of really great women who were in prominent positions there and who helped other women."..

Roberts, the daughter of former U.S. representatives, grew up walking the halls of Congress and absorbing the personalities, folkways and behind-the-scenes machinations of the nation's capital. She became a seasoned Washington insider who developed a distinctive voice as a reporter and commentator...

"She liked people on both sides of the aisle and had friends on both sides of the aisle," Will told NPR. "If you don't like the game of politics, I don't see how you write about it well," he said. "She liked the game of politics and she understood that it was a game."

Born in New Orleans as Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs, she was given the nickname Cokie by her brother, Thomas, who had trouble pronouncing Corinne.

Roberts' father was Thomas Hale Boggs Sr., a former Democratic majority leader of the House who served in Congress for more than three decades before he disappeared on a campaign flight in Alaska in 1972. Her mother, Lindy Claiborne Boggs, took her husband's seat and served for 17 years...

As a commentator, Roberts sometimes walked a line that threatened to eclipse her role as a dispassionate journalist. In a February 2016 op-ed co-authored with her husband, they called on "the rational wing" of the Republican Party to stop the nomination of Donald Trump.

"[Trump] is one of the least qualified candidates ever to make a serious run for the presidency," Roberts and her husband wrote. "If he is nominated by a major party — let alone elected — the reputation of the United States would suffer a devastating blow around the world."..

"In covering Congress, there's plenty of times when I felt, you know, the mother line...... I don't care who started it, I'm stopping it."
That last comment deserves the larger font.  We need more mothers in Congress.

Image cropped for size from the original, credit Ariel Zambelich/NPR.

Zebra foal spotted

Via.  Not much discussion at the link, and I don't have time to look this anomaly up right now.

Addendum: another image (via) -

- which incidentally shows that zebras are black with white stripes, not white with black stripes.

Evidence for inheritance of autism

This was all new to me:
Rizzo’s children, ages 7 and 6, were at the center of one of the most ethically complex legal cases in the modern-day fertility industry. Three years ago, while researching treatment options for her sons, Rizzo says she made an extraordinary discovery: The boys are part of an autism cluster involving at least a dozen children scattered across the United States, Canada and Europe, all conceived with sperm from the same donor. Many of the children have secondary diagnoses of ADHD, dyslexia, mood disorders, epilepsy and other developmental and learning disabilities...

When she first found out about their many half-siblings, she consulted a genetic counselor, who she says told her the odds of so many blood-related children with autism occurring spontaneously was akin to all the mothers “opening up a dictionary and pointing to the same letter of the same word on the same page at the same time.”..

The Food and Drug Administration told her its oversight of the sperm-donor industry is limited to screening for sexually transmitted diseases.  So, after a year of fruitless phone calls and letters, she sued...

Donor H898 from Idant Laboratories looked like a winner. He was blond and blue-eyed, 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, and appeared to be smart and accomplished. His profile said he had a master’s degree and was working as a medical photographer. His hobbies included long-distance running, reading and art. And most important, Rizzo says, he had a clean bill of health, according to his profile — having scribbled “NA” and a strikethrough line on all but one of the more than 100 medical questions, including mental health ones, posed by sperm banks...

Donor H898’s sperm was offered through multiple sources. According to the mothers, court documents and genetic testing through 23andMe and Ancestry.com, he sold anonymously to at least four sperm banks (which typically pay about $100 per visit), donated to a high-end agency that matches parents with donors they can meet face-to-face, and offered his sperm for a low fee or even free on sites such as KnownDonorRegistry.com or privately...

As of August, Repro Lab was still selling vials, priced at $450-$525, from the donor.
More details at The Washington Post.

So very true...


Kids these days...


The Regal Birdflower (Crotolaria cunninghamii)

Horticultural details at Seattle Garden & Fruit Adventures; photo via.

Language in Bram Stoker's "Dracula"

I first read Bram Stoker's Dracula decades ago, then placed it on the "reread someday" bookshelf; that someday arrived this summer.

It is worth emphasizing that this is not "schlock" literature.  The plot is well-known to every consumer of culture in the Western hemisphere, but the profusion of "B" movie adaptations do not do justice to the richness of the language in the story.   The original novel is a longread, and for those with a limited vocabulary or those for whom English is a second language it may be tedious, but personally I love the sometimes convoluted sentences and extended descriptions of late Victorian novels.   By the time I finished reading, I had bookmarked a considerable number of words and phrases, which I'll share for those with similar interests:
"I had for breakfast more paprika, and a sort of porridge of maize flour... and egg-plant stuffed with forcemeat, a very excellent dish, which they call 'impletata.'"  According to Wikipedia, forcemeat (derived from the French farcir, "to stuff") "is a mixture of ground, lean meat mixed with fat by grinding, sieving, or puréeing the ingredients."  Also interesting to me is the listing of paprika as a main breakfast item rather than just a flavoring.  "The trade in paprika expanded from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, then under Ottoman rule, which explains the Hungarian origin of the English term... Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late 19th century."  A convenient way for Stoker to emphasize the exotic site of his story in the opening chapter.

"At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina..."  A four-wheeled stagecoach (familiar to anyone who has seen any of the movies).  The word is French.

"... a caleche, with four horses, drove up behind us..."  More commonly called a barouche, is another four-wheeler.

"I was conscious of the presence of the Count, and of his being as if lapped in a storm of fury."  If in the sense of a hem or border, this would suggest "being surrounded by" - maybe.  A bit obscure.  [note from a reader: "lap" in Dutch means a big sheet of cloth, which fits with the "wrapping up" meaning.]

"I am surely in the toils."  Trapped.  Early 16th century (denoting a net into which a hunted quarry is driven): plural of toil, from Old French toile ‘net, trap’.

"My dear, I am somewhat previous."  In context, being premature, or getting ahead of oneself in relating a story. 

"He will not admit anything, and downfaces everybody."  (transitive, archaic, rare) to persist boldly in an assertion.  Modernized to "face down."

"As there is no motive for concealment, I am permited to use them, and accordingly send you a rescript, simply omitting technical details..."  A copy- literally "re-write."

"We had a capital "severe tea" at Robin Hood's Bay in a sweet little old-fashioned inn..."  Presumably a harsh or bitter tea ???.  Maybe some Brit will have better knowledge of how this word applies to tea.

"We beg to acknowledge [amount] received and to return cheque... 17s. 9d, amount of overplus, as shown in receipted account herewith."  Overpayment.  From over- + Anglo-Norman plus, Middle French plus.

"... the edges [of the puncture wound] were white and worn-looking, as if by some trituration."  From the Latin, conventionally "to grind to a fine powder," but I also found "to break up biological tissue into individual cells via passage through a narrow opening such as a hypodermic needle."

"It would at once frighten him and enjealous him, too."  To make jealous (archaic).

"I have left to me neither chick nor child; all are gone, and in my will I have left you everything."  Chick can mean child (especially female one), but why pair it with child?

"Together we moved over to the bed, and I lifted the lawn from her face..."  Later: "... we could see that the lips were crimson with fresh blood, and that the stream had trickled over her chin and stained the purity of her lawn death-robe."  A type of thin linen or cotton (named after a French town).

"We shook hands, and he was so earnest and so kind that it made me quite choky."  Presumably "choked up."

"Holding his candle so that he could read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal..."  Candle wax, obviously.  A physical resemblance of the drippings of a white candle to human sperm is a possible association, but candle wax in this era was also derived from the oil in the head of sperm whales.  So, to if you want to enliven the conversation at the next dinner party at a table with candleabra, just announce that you see some sperm on the tablecloth...

"... I began to typewrite from the beginning of the seventh cylinder [of a dictation "phonograph"].  I used manifold, and so took three copies of the diary..." Perfectly logical but seldom seen use of typewrite as a verb (and a usage that is destined never to come back into vogue).  Manifold in this context would be the Victorian equivalent of carbon paper.

"To use an Americanism, he had 'taken no chances'...  I had no idea this is an "Americanism." ???

"It is just as that dear, good Professor Van Helsing said: he is true grit, and he improves under strain..."  Didn't know the phrase was this old.

 "... his mouth was actually nauseous with the flies and spiders which he had eaten just before Mrs. Harker entered the room."  Sickening or disgusting.

"He is a decent, intelligent fellow, distinctly a good, reliable type of workman, and with a headpiece of his own."  Brain, presumably.

"This was all practical, so one of the children went off with a penny to buy an envelope and a sheet of paper, and to keep the change." Getting change for a penny only sounds odd if you forget about the existence of the farthing.

"This was manifestly a prig of the first water, and there was no use arguing with him."  A dandy or arrogant person.  "First water" borrows the term for a fineness of a diamond's clarity.

"She looked at him meaningly as she spoke."  ?meaningfully

"There are, or there may be, customs and octroi officers to pass."  Local tax collector (French).

"There are great, frowning precipices and much falling water..."  Googling the term in quotes yields a variety of references in literature to precipices "frowning," but I can't quite sort out the meaning.  Presumably they tower over you in a foreboding manner??

"I fear to think of her, off on the wolds near that horrible place."  From Middle English wald, wold, from Old English (Anglian) wald (compare weald), from Proto-Germanic *walþuz, from Proto-Indo-European *wel(ə)-t- (compare Norwegian voll ‘field, meadow’, Welsh gwallt ‘hair’, Lithuanian váltis ‘oat awn’, Serbo-Croatian vlât ‘ear (of wheat)’, Ancient Greek λάσιος (lásios) ‘hairy’). See also the related term weald.  A grassland, or (obsolete) a forest.

"... the whole body began to melt away and crumble into its native dust, as though the death that should have come centures agone had at last assert himself..." Van Helsing speaking, using an archaic form of "ago."

"... every man of the gypsy party drew what weapon he carried... Issue was joined in an instant."  To enter into an argument or conflict.
And two other memorable items:
"She is going though the house, and wants to see every one in it," I answered.  "Oh, very well," he said; "let her come in,  by all means; but just wait a minute till I tidy up the place."  His method of tidying was peculiar; he simply swallowed all the flies and spiders in the boxes before I could stop him."

When he was buying property in England, Count Dracula used the alias Count de Ville."  (I wonder if he had dalmatians...)

Eric Clapton's version of "How Deep is the Ocean?"

I listened today to the 2010 "Clapton" album; mixed in with all the blues pieces was his version of an old song with refreshingly upbeat lyrics:
How much do I love you? I'll tell you no lie -
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?

How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel to be where you are?
How far is the journey from here to a star?

And if I ever lose you how much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1932.  I found videos of covers by Peggy Lee/Benny Goodman, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Etta James, Nat King Cole, and Ray Charles, among others, but I like Clapton's the best.

Reposted from 2011 to replace the original video and delete other links which had undergone linkrot over the years.

Regarding habitable exoplanets

Dropping feathers and a bowling ball in a vacuum

Educated people know what's going to happen, but it's still interesting to see in real life.  If you're in a hurry, you can start at about the 2:20 mark.

The upside of a hurricane

Reportedly found on the Atlantic shoreline of Virginia after Dorian, via [image cropped for size].

08 September 2019

Blogcation begins now

Back in a week or two.  In the meantime, consider browsing the "Archive" in the right sidebar.

Divertimento #168

89 gifs to keep you busy while I go on vacation

Everyone knows how satisfying this isAnd this (poppy seeds).
Backyard rollercoaster
Downhill go cart track in New Zealand
Traditional soap production in Palestine
Mushrooms being harvested
A mashup of the phrase "go f--- youself" in movies and TV
Mother's reflexes save child from serious fall
Escalator eats a person (safe to watch)
Man headbutts someone, gets instant karma
Animated 20-year history of internet browser usage
Woman giving birth in a Denver jail cell (warning)
Woman driver (discussion thread)

Nature and Science
Tourist goes head over heels for Yellowstone bison
How the planets circle a moving sun
How to boil water at room temperature in a parking ramp
Mudslide coming!!
Adjusting mesh stockings
Friendship ring
Why you shouldn't kayak too close to cliffs 
Anemone escapes from a starfish
Microburst of rain 
Clean a seashell with hydrochloric acid.
Baby born with a caul
Cracking open some obsidian
Eye of hurricane Dorian
A reminder that bullets can bounce off water
Parasitoid emerges from a mantis

Pedicure of a horse.
Feeding a Nautilus.
Goose drowns a gull
Parrot evicts an intruder 
Shade-seeking lizard 
How maggots jump without legs 
Alligator climbs a chain-link fence
Shadow of a millipede
Snake climbs a rope
Baby goat headbutts dog
Mistreated rescue bird loves his new owner (discussion)
Polar bear channels his inner narwhal
Who knew that armadillos love toys?

Sports and athleticism
Bowler converts her spare
Two-person cartwheel
Interactive gym wall 
Caught in the act of blood-doping
Pole vault

Idiot decides to slap a horse's ass
Bringing pizza home 
She didn't need that last beer 
Chainsaw kickback 
Car driver tries to bash cyclist
Hotel room shower head
Idiot driver

Impressive or clever
Interesting door mechanism
Lots of interesting ways to fold a dinner napkin
How to julienne a potato 
Spray-painting two images onto bowls
Scythe with a basket 
Walleye captures a muskie 
Flip-flop winch (see this video for explanation)
Woman catches a catfish
Anjihan Grand Canyon
Carving styrofoam
Polymer clay art
Screws turned inside wood using magnetic drill
Speed chess 
Clever way to move a concrete slab
Art using staples
Party trick I'd like to learn
Street performer
Convertible bicycle
Making a culinary sugar dome.  Also a mirror glaze on a cake.
Art restoration (note this person has a channel of videos)
To repair a hole in jeans

Cheerful or funny
Dad gives his daughter a surprise gift
Man can't find his phone 
Filmed in a "typical British pub"
Infant's first glasses
Dog helps his human
Girl asserts dominance over her sibling(s)
A couple propose to each other at the same time
Making children happy 
Father gets a pretend vaccination
Dog returned to his owner
Girl with knife at carnival ride 
Shower trick
Dogs happy to return home
There are two types of dogs...

Today's embedded images come from a Flickr gallery entitled Roadside America. "Take a journey along U.S. main streets, byways, and highways through photographs taken by John Margolies between 1969 and 2008. We’ll be continuously adding images from the Margolies archive of more than 11,000 color slides."

This teacher thought menstrual periods last one day

Discussion thread at the badwomensanatomy subreddit.

Last Monarchs of the summer

This week our last Monarchs are eclosing and departing (we raised and released probably about 150 of them this summer).  With the cooler weather, some needed an energy boost before taking off.  And we released them from the south side of the house to make their trip to Mexico a little shorter.

Political discourse these days

Owning the liberals by sucking on a plastic straw embedded in a meat patty decorated with an incandescent bulb.

To be fair and balanced, we will admit that liberals pull similar stunts.


Early rock music

"Archaeologist Dr. Jean-Loup Ringot specialized in prehistoric music demonstrates a Lithophone."

Other relevant videos here and here (stalactites).

07 September 2019

Victorian radiator incorporating a plate warmer


Uncommonly persistent spam from deltrino.duckdns.org

My personal email (not the one associated with this blog) has been swamped in recent weeks by a torrent of spammy emails.  Nothing dangerous or ominous as far as I can see.

All of them come from a single source: deltrino.duckdns.org, and for reasons I don't understand my Earthlink system does not allow emails from this source to be flagged as spam.

Obviously my email address got into this company's database.  IIRC, the same thing happened to me many years ago and I was able to escape, but I don't remember how.

Have any readers experienced the same problem?  Can anyone offer a suggested remedy?


Offered without comment.

The Republican party will cancel primaries in several states

Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans.

The moves are the latest illustration of Trump’s takeover of the entire Republican Party apparatus. They underscore the extent to which his allies are determined to snuff out any potential nuisance en route to his renomination — or even to deny Republican critics a platform to embarrass him...

The cancellations stem in part from months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Trump campaign. Aides have worked to ensure total control of the party machinery, installing staunch loyalists at state parties while eliminating potential detractors. The aim, Trump officials have long said, is to smooth the path to the president’s renomination and ensure he doesn’t face the kind of internal opposition that hampered former President George H.W. Bush in his failed 1992 reelection campaign.

Trump aides said they supported the cancellations but stressed that each case was initiated by state party officials.

The shutdowns aren’t without precedent. Some of the states forgoing Republican nomination contests have done so during the reelection bids of previous presidents. Arizona, GOP officials there recalled, did not hold a Democratic presidential primary in 2012, when Barack Obama was seeking a second term, or in 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for reelection. Kansas did not have a Democratic primary in 1996, and Republican officials in the state pointed out that they have long chosen to forgo primaries during a sitting incumbent’s reelection year. 
More at Politico.

The treasures of Padmanabhaswamy Temple

Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and the Tamil style (kovil) of architecture associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century Gopuram... The principal deity Vishnu is enshrined in the "Anantha Shayanam" posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan.

The Temple has been referred to in the (only recorded) Sangam Period of literature between 500 BCE and 300 CE several times. Many conventional historians and scholars are of the opinion that one of the names that the Temple had - "The Golden Temple" - literally was in cognizance of the fact that the Temple was already unimaginably wealthy by that point. Many extant pieces of Sangam Tamil literature and poetry, and even the later works of Ninth Century Tamil poet-saints like Nammalwar, refer to the Temple and even the city as having walls of pure gold. At some places, both the Temple and the entire city are often eulogized even as being made of gold, and the Temple as Heaven

While vault B remains unopened, vaults A, C, D, E and F were opened along with some of their antechambers. Among the reported findings, are a three-and-a-half feet tall solid pure golden idol of Mahavishnu, studded with hundreds of diamonds and rubies and other precious stones. Also found were an 18-foot-long pure gold chain, a gold sheaf weighing 500 kg (1,100 lb), a 36 kg (79 lb) golden veil, 1200 'Sarappalli' gold coin-chains that are encrusted with precious stones, and several sacks filled with golden artifacts, necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gemstones, and objects made of other precious metals. Ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part gold anki weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb), gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds, and several 18th century Napoleonic era coins were found amongst many other objects. In early 2012, an expert committee had been appointed to investigate these objects, which include lakhs of golden coins of the Roman Empire, that were found in Kottayam, in Kannur District. According to Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller-and-Auditor-General(CAG) of India, who had audited some of the Temple records from 1990, in August 2014, in the already opened vault A, there is an 800 kg (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating to around 200 BCE, each coin priced at over 2.7 crore (US$390,000). Also found was a pure Golden Throne, studded with hundreds of diamonds and other fully precious stones, meant for the 18-foot-long Deity. As per one of the men, who was among those that went inside this Vault A, several of the largest diamonds were as large as a full-grown man's thumb. According to varying reports, at least three, if not more, of solid gold crowns have been found, studded with diamonds and other precious stones. Some other media reports also mention hundreds of pure gold chairs, thousands of gold pots and jars, among the articles recovered from Vault A and its antechambers.

This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple as the wealthiest place of worship in the world. It is conservatively estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to 1.2 lakh crore or 1.2 trillion (US$17 billion). If the antique and cultural value were taken into account these assets could be worth ten times the current market price
More at the link. Photo cropped for size and adjusted for exposure and contrast from the original.
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