06 July 2020

Gleanings from "Naked to Mine Enemies" - updated

I first read Naked to Mine Enemies in the 1960s when I subscribed to the superb Time Reading Program.  Read it again and enjoyed it about 20 years ago and again reshelved it for future rereads.  Now the future is here, so it's time to give it a "goodbye read." The book is arguably the best biography ever written about Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York and effectively the "alter rex" of England in the early 1500s.  Herewith some excerpts from volume I:
"And so, obedient to a practice that belongs to no age and an irony that belongs to all ages, the Marquis saw that the schoolmaster must be rewarded for his good teaching by not teaching at all, by being withdrawn from teaching.  There was no future in teaching.  Education was to fit a man for something else."

"Miraculous cures had been accomplished, and many persons came in great penance and devotion; but not a few came for the ride, and the term Canterbury gallop, denoting the leisurely and pleasant pace of the horses of the pilgrims, had begun to take its place in the language, later to be reduced to the word canter."

(for the invasion of France):  "In intent and purpose the army of the King went to invade; but first and foremost it went to parade... The Earl of Northumberland carried with him a feather bed and mattress for his pavilion, "with cushions of silk, hangings of worsted, twelve dishes, six saucers, twelve silver spoons, two or three folding stools, a folding table, a close carriage with seven horses, two chariots each with eight horses, four carts each with seven horses, not to speak of a steward, a chamberlain, and a treasurer of the household, a treasurer of wars, two chaplains, a gentleman usher of the chamber, a master of the horse, carvers and cupbearers, a herald and a pursuivant."

"The whole question of dress needed to be reviewed; and the Parliament of 1515 passed an Act of Apparel fathered and furthered by Wolsey, which restricted the burgesses to their appropriate homespun and defined in more precise terms than did the earlier laws what men of the several classes would be permitted to wear.  The Act of Apparel went further.  It set up regulations in another area where the tendencies of persons of low order to ape their betters had begun to show themselves - the area of food.  Those who stood in the ranks of gentlemen were permitted to have three dishes at a meal; lords of Parliament, Lord Mayors, and Knights of the Garter could have six."

"[Buckingham] was brought back to the bar, and the Duke of Norfolk, as chief judge, pronounced the sentence of death for treason:  "To be drawn upon a hurdle to the place of execution, there to be hanged, cut down alive, your members to be cut off and cast into the fire, your bowels burnt before your eyes, your head smitten off, your body to be quartered and divided at the King's will, and God have mercy on your soul... [Buckingham protests that he was not a traitor]... "... before his death, four days after his condemnation, the King relented and graciously consented that the Duke not have his bowels burnt before his eyes but that he be merely decapitated.  So he was, on May 17, 1521, to the astonishment and sympathy of the people far and wide."

"The whigmaleeries and involvements of foreign trade were no less a mystery to the overworked apprentices and workers of London than they would be to future generations...  From RampantScotland: ""Whigmaleerie" has a number of meanings, including a fanciful notion, a piece of ornamentation in a dress, a game played at a drinking club - and a fantastical contraption. Nowadays, it is often applied to a rotating clothes dryer in a garden."

[re the selection of a new Pope]: "Public interest in learning the name of the new pope was not altogether prompted by piety.  It was a quaint custom that the cardinal chosen should have his house ransacked and pillage before he could return to it, "an offense tolerated and overlooked in the general joy and license of the election."

[Wolsey] "set about to change England from a kingdom ruled by lords and whims into an orderly state... The very fact that he was a minister and not a king indicated that change had come about.  For a king, with his might and tyranny, to order this or that was one thing; for Wolsey under the King's approval to set up accounts, investigate prices, supervise the coinage, look to export licenses, regulate wages and prices, monitor the diet and dress of the people, devise graduated taxes - this was quite another.  The lines of a state which would have continuity were beginning to form."

"Wolsey's steady and relentless insistence upon regulation and responsibility, while it was often misguided, establishes gradually the consciousness of nationhood.  That consciousness was still dim when he came to power.  Men were primarily loyal to their class or their locality, not to their country.  Their loyalty lay naturally to what was close at hand.  ... there was simply nothing in the range of their experience to encompass the land of England as a whole, save at times of crisis.... the intense local loyalty which in the days of Wolsey's childhood could regard his father as an "alien" because he came from a village ten miles away - these attitudes showed what men felt and how limited was their sight.  The State was an abstraction just begining to emerge in men's minds..."

"Thomas Wolsey was in a sense the real Henry VIII, and the man who swaggers through history under that title was in effect Henry IX, a king whose performance was made possible by the work of Wolsey..."

Updated to add two items from the second part of the book. Wolsey's inability to secure a dispensation from the Pope for Henry's original marriage to Catherine ultimately led to his disfavor in the court and exile therefrom.  This was an interesting observation about Henry's marital situation:
"That a King who was one of the most envied and powerful princes of Christendom could not do as he pleased about his marriage had a sobering effect on the whole populace... made men reckon anew with marriage. 
The point involved might affect any marriage in England. Consanguinity, or affinity between two persons, had come to be looked upon as the devil's handiwork.  The most carefully arranged marriage, celebrated with every precaution in the face of the Church, might be invalidated by the discovery of this impediment.  "If the parties were related within the fourth degree - that is, if they had a common great-great-grandparent - then their union was null or void, unless a papal dispensation could be secured."  And this was only the beginning of the complications, for a husband was related to all his wife's relations and a wife to all her husband's...  This multiplication of impediments "made the formation of a valid marriage a matter of chance."  Parish registers offer many references to persons who had married in  ignorance of the fact that they were related within the prohibited degree.  And in some cases a husband might merely weary of his wife, and then suddenly discover that the two were related and that their marriage ought to be dissolved."
Imagine the complexities involved at the village level, where birth records were scattered, family trees not commonly created, and the populations small.  I should think in many small villages, everyone would be related to one another within four degrees.

Overall, the second part of this book was not as enjoyable as the first, perhaps because reading about someone's fall from grace is not as pleasant as reading about success.  Wolsey had risen from common stock to a life surrounded by nobility, and his rise to power had created a variety of enemies.  Economic conditions had become difficult in England because of drought, then floods, then by an epidemic plague of murrain, devastating the cattle and sheep herds.  The church and the state controlled much of the economy.
"A kingdom usually rich and verdant and teeming with animal life ached from repeated afflictions and suffered the justice of extremes, and the people who had confidently drawn their plenty from a beneficent land looked bitterly at the one who might be held accountable for prices and shortages. 
The government's measures for dealing with the effects of dislocations caused by drouth and flood could not have added to the popularity of the Cardinal... And the man in the red hat who had painstakingly identified himself with the government paid the penalty of assumed and flaunted responsibility... It was part of his function as Lord Chancellor to serve as a kind of effigy for the King, sparing the King actual contact with the populace and keeping the royal person sacrosanct... 
Suddenly the son of an innkeeper and grazier, who had risen to be the shield of the King, began to seem personally as well as officially offensive: the very manner of his living implied a disregard for the common lot, and the splendor of his palaces and the stateliness with which he moved through London... now offered an affront to a public suffering from diminished prosperity in some ranks and from actual hunger in others... 
The temper of the people had altered while the Cardinal was too energetically engaged in administering the regime to revise his values or see the changed look in men's eyes as he passed through the smells of the crowd, his protective orange stuffed with spices held beneath his nostrils... The man from Ipswich had in effect forsaken the woolsack of his father; he had risen too high to see what went on below, to observe that a "more frugal, prosaic and commercial element was daily gathering strength and ascendancy" and that this element "found itself more in conformity with the severe, rigid, and economic spirit of Protestantism than with the sumptuous ritual of the ancient Church, or the dazzling amusements of the court."
This was a longread, and perhaps in the end TMI for my needs, but it was a fascinating look at one of the most powerful men in the history of England.

In memoriam: Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone, the  Italian composer whose atmospheric scores for spaghetti westerns and some 500 films by a Who’s Who of international directors made him one of the world’s most versatile and influential creators of music for the modern cinema, died on Monday in Rome. He was 91... 
To many cineastes, Maestro Morricone (pronounced more-ah-CONE-ay) was a unique talent, crafting melodic accompaniments to comedies, thrillers and historical dramas by Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Terrence Malick, Roland Joffé, Brian De Palma, Barry Levinson, Mike Nichols, John Carpenter, Quentin Tarantino and other filmmakers. 
Mr. Morricone scored many popular films of the past 40 years: Édouard Molinaro’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1978), Mr. Carpenter’s “The Thing” (1982), Mr. De Palma’s “The Untouchables” (1987), Roman Polanski’s “Frantic” (1988), Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” (1988), Wolfgang Petersen’s “In the Line of Fire” (1993), and Mr. Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” (2015). 
In 2016, Mr. Morricone won his first competitive Academy Award for his score for “The Hateful Eight,” an American western mystery thriller for which he also won a Golden Globe. In a career showered with honors, he had previously won an Oscar for lifetime achievement (2007) and was nominated for five other Academy Awards, and had won two Golden Globes, four Grammys and dozens of international awards. 
But the work that made him world famous, and that was best known to moviegoers, was his blend of music and sound effects for Sergio Leone’s 1960s spaghetti westerns: a ticking pocket watch, a sign creaking in the wind, buzzing flies, a twanging Jew’s harp, haunting whistles, cracking whips, gunshots and a bizarre, wailing “ah-ee-ah-ee-ah,” played on a sweet potato-shaped wind instrument called an ocarina... 
Mr. Morricone looked professorial in bow ties and spectacles, with wisps of flyaway white hair. He sometimes holed up in his palazzo in Rome and wrote music for weeks on end, composing not at a piano but at a desk. He heard the music in his mind, he said, and wrote it in pencil on score paper for all orchestra parts.
More at The New York Times.  My mostest favorite composer ever.

Ennio Morricone's "Ecstasy of Gold"

Morricone is perhaps my favorite modern composer.  Even better in my view than the embedded selection above is Jill's Theme in Once Upon a Time in the West, and the musical theme of Cinema Paradiso.

Addendum:  Here's an orchestral version, which I think is better than the film version, where the vocal is so toned down.

Reposted from 2012 to substitute an improved wide-screen video. 

Re-reposted to celebrate Ennio Morricone finally being awarded a well-deserved (and long-overdue) Academy Award. And re-re-reposted from 2016 to again replace the orchestral video with an updated one.

Re-re-re-reposted from 2016 in memoriam.

Music by Morricone

A couple days ago I wanted to read for an hour, so I asked Alexa to shuffle music by Ennio Morricone, who has become my favorite composer.  The first offering Alexa presented was the one embedded above.  I had to interrupt her to ask her to identify the song.  It sounded familiar, and I wondered if Morricone had written for Broadway or a movie I hadn't seen.

Identifying the piece took a while.  Searching the lyrics kept yielding links to an Australian group called Savage Garden.  Adding Celine Dion to the search finally led me to a tribute album.  And then I discovered that the lyrics had been added on to Morricone's well-known Deborah's Theme from Once Upon a Time in America.

Reposted from 2017 in memoriam.

Gabriel's Oboe (from The Mission)

Composed (and directed) by Ennio Morricone.

A relevant scene from the movie is here:

Reposted to celebrate Ennio Morricone finally being awarded a well-deserved (and long-overdue) Academy Award.

Re-reposted from 2016 in memoriam.

05 July 2020


(click pic to embiggen)

She joined me while I was reading on our deck yesterday evening.  A female, judging by the ovipositor, and presumably a juvenile based on the size of the wings.  I know next to nothing about orthoptera, but found some info at a UW-Milwaukee website:
"...in the family Tettigoniidae, the Long-horned Grasshoppers and Katydids. In order to belong to this club, your antennae have to be as long as or longer than your body... Male Katydids are all about sound (in some species, the females answer, but not loudly). And if their hind set of wings is dedicated to flight, their front pair was made for song. This they accomplish by stridulation (friction), rubbing the rigid edge of one forewing against a comb-like “file” on the other. What they produce may not sound like the classic “katy-did, katy didn’t;” that song is limited to a single genus of True Katydids. Fork-tailed Bush Katydids are the best singers of the “false katydids”, with a repertoire of clicks and buzzes. Because those who produce sound must be able to hear it, katydids have a slit-like ear (tympana) on each front leg. To pick up sound, they raise a leg in a gesture that is reminiscent of humans cupping their hand behind an ear. 
Hubbell says that Katydids challenge us to reevaluate our concept of “sound,” because in addition to the clicks and buzzes, some kinds of katydids have an ultra-ultrasonic call, while others produce, by thumping/stamping on twigs in species-specific tempos, vibrations that are detected by other katydids. For many insects there is no line between “heard” and “felt,” and the vocabulary of our sensory experience may be inadequate to express theirs."

Mount Russia-more

As portrayed this week on Russia’s premier state media channel Rossiya-1.

Asking for suggestions re Father Brown

I've finished reading all the John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson mysteries.  Carr apparently was an admirer of G.K. Chesterton's classic "Father Brown" series of mysteries.  Can a reader here recommend a selection of his short stories? I don't have time to read everything, so I'd like to sample the best.  Thanks in advance.

04 July 2020

Fireworks safety video

Via Neatorama.

The Arctic is warming REALLY fast

"... already this year, fires in the spring arrived earlier and with more ferocity, government officials have said. In the territory where Deyev lives, fires were three times as large this April as the year before. And the hot, dry summer lies ahead... 
“We always expected the Arctic to change faster than the rest of the globe,” said Walt Meier, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “But I don’t think anyone expected the changes to happen as fast as we are seeing them happen.”.. The temperatures occurring in the High Arctic during the past 15 years were not predicted to occur for 70 more years... 
Neither Dallas nor Houston has hit 100 degrees yet this year, but in one of the coldest regions of the world, Siberia’s “Pole of Cold,” the mercury climbed to 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) on June 20. 
Scientists have long maintained that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. But in reality, the region is now warming at nearly three times the global average. Data from NASA shows that since 1970, the Arctic has warmed by an average of 5.3 degrees (2.94 Celsius), compared with the global average of 1.71 degrees (0.95 Celsius) during the same period. Scientists refer to the phenomenon as “Arctic amplification."
The melting of snow and ice earlier in the spring exposes darker land surfaces and ocean waters. This switches these areas from being net reflectors of incoming solar radiation to heat absorbers, which further increases land and sea temperatures."
More grim reality at The Washington Post.

Thomas Jefferson's sixth great-grandson

Some relevant comments at DamnThat'sInteresting.  More about Shannon LaNier and the creation of the portrait at Smithsonian (with interesting video), via BoingBoing.

Counterfeit mint marks

This is the most interesting thing I've read all week.  I started collecting coins when I was a kid, though the hobby has been inactive for decades.  Mint marks are crucial in determining the value of a coin, and most collectors realize that they can be altered by abrading them off, or by adding extra metal (typically crudely done).  Yesterday the Madison Coin Club circulated an article from CoinWeek explaining that mint marks can be added from the inside of the coin.
This curious alteration, known as an embossed mintmark, began turning up in the late 1970s and early ‘80s on coins bearing thick edges and on which any mintmark would typically be found near the rim. Buffalo Nickels certainly fit that bill. So, too, do Morgan Dollars...

What’s an embossed mintmark? It’s a mintmark that has pushed up from inside the coin – that’s the embossing process. But how’s something like this done? By drilling a tiny hole through the edge of the coin under the place where the mintmark will be situated on the coin. To emboss the mintmark, a device resembling needle-nosed pliers is used; on the inside of one jaw is the mintmark, and on the inside of the other is padding to prevent scratches and other damage on the surface receiving the embossed mintmark. With the mintmark-side of the pliers in the drilled-out hole, pressure is then applied on the pliers and the mintmark is embossed onto the coin from within. The access hole on the edge of the coin is then filled with a material such as lead and sanded or sculpted to resemble the surrounding authentic edge...

A miscreant who endeavors in such fraud must have a lot of patience – and access to dental tools – to emboss bogus mintmarks. But it’s been done… countless times. How many embossed mintmarks are out there is anybody’s guess. But these phonies are prevalent enough on the marketplace that collectors need to be wary.
Image from the source (I added the arrow pointing to the "S" mint mark).

Remember to clean your clothes dryer vent - updated

It's not sufficient to clean the lint trap screen on your appliance.  We did that for 15 years, but still found the efficiency of the dryer decreasing, so we called in the services of a professional.  The first thing he did was remove the contorted connector (above) that ran between the dryer and the wall conduit.  The previous owner of the house had done this because the dryer vent outlet and the wall site were not in line horizontally or vertically.   This segment was not occluded with lint, but it's inefficient and prone to collecting debris.

The replacement (not shown) is a short "transition vent" that runs diagonally; it will need to be detached in order to move the dryer out to clean the floor etc, but it's less likely to become plugged with lint.

The next step was to clean inside the dryer by removing the front panel. 

I've highlighted with a red oval the problem he usually finds - an accumulation of dust and (in our case) cat hair.   When home clothes dryers catch fire, THIS is the where the combustible material is typically located.  And most importantly, this material is NOT derived from the clothes in the dryer - it gets sucked into the cabinet from the floor of the room.

Think about it.  The dryer is going to heat and spin and blow air out its vent.  To do that, it has to pull air in from somewhere.  Not from outdoors, where the air might be subzero, but from behind itself and from the floor of the room.  Even if you're careful about cleaning, over the years dust and debris will accumulate.

The next step was cleaning the conduit between the utility room and the outdoors.  In our case, that conduit ran up the inside of the wall between the utility room and the garage, then horizontally between a crawlspace and the roof of the garage, then exited high on the outside wall.

Too high for me to access.  I don't have a ladder that long, and if I did, I wouldn't go up except at gunpoint.  He went up and removed the louvers that covered the vent.  The louvers were twisted and didn't move freely.  This happens because the exiting air is hot enough to warp the plastic slats of the louver (this risk is present on clothes-dryer vents, but not on ones for room-temp air such as bathroom vents).  He reached in and dropped down to me a handful of what he found inside:

That's typical clothes lint - the stuff that works its way through the trap in the dryer.

The next step was to clean the entire conduit - probably 30-40 feet in length.  On the internet I had read reports of homeowners claiming success in cleaning such vents by adapting the output of a leaf blower to the indoor end and blowing the ducts out.  He explained that it's seldom that simple.  The lint that exits sometimes carries some moisture and especially at bends or joins in the tubing it can accumulate in a consistency not unlike papier-mâché.

What professionals use (I didn't take a photo) is the air-duct equivalent of a Roto-Rooter for water drains.   It's a flexible "snake" with brushes that rotate as it traverses the ducts.  And as it goes through, vacuum is applied from the inside to suck out the material that is coating the duct.

Finally, he replaced the louver with an animal-exclusion cage (it lifts up for cleaning if lint accumulates).  Our exit site did not contain a bird's nest or any evidence of animal invasion.  Birds do sometimes nest in these sites if they are open (he had recently serviced the vents at an apartment complex where a dozen of the 30-40 vents had bird nests in them).  Chipmunks and other small rodents will nest in these locations if the outlet is low on the wall.  Bats are not a problem because they do not tolerate the heat.

We couldn't be happier with the result.  The first load we ran dried in probably half the time that similar loads required in the past, so there will be a saving in electricity plus much less wear and tear on tumbling clothes, plus eliminating one potential risk for a house fire.

Finally, a shout-out to the crew:

They were highly efficient and totally professional.  Their offices are on Odana Road in Madison, Wisconsin.

Addendum:  There is a relevant current article on "Dryer Duct Safety" in Reuben Saltzman's incomparable home inspection blog.

Reposted from 2017 to add this incredible GIF ("Renters demand a new dryer since this one "isn't working well"").

Hum along with "The Liberty Bell"

Don't know the tune?  Of course you do.  Every Brit and most Americans have heard it a hundred times here.

03 July 2020

"Put on a Happy Face" parody

In the past I've buried Randy Rainbow's parodies in the "Trump clumps," but now with the gloves off I'll go ahead and offer this one in a full post.

For those new to these videos, there are dozens more here.

Washington — After long resisting wearing a mask in public, President Trump said Wednesday he thinks it makes him look like the Lone Ranger - and he likes it.
Someone doesn't realize that the Lone Ranger's mask covered his eyes, not his nose and mouth.  Moron.

Bette Midler agrees:

02 July 2020

Hotels (including Hyatt, Trump) don't change sheets or clean rooms

I've always thought this was the case, and have see several anecdotal reports from people leaving or finding things between sheets - but it's better to see the faults professionally documented.

And you know the public blaming will go to the poor staff, whitewashing the roles of management and ownership.  I'm sure this has been going on for decades.

An example of a protest that goes way too far

"Protesters apparently outraged by the killing of a popular singer in Ethiopia stopped traffic on Interstate 94 in St. Paul [Minnesota] during Wednesday evening’s rush hour. 
One protester told KSTP-TV they are telling the U.S. government to stop letting fake leaders run Ethiopia after the killing of singer Hachalu Hundessa. 
State Patrol spokesman Lt. Gordon Shank said after 8 p.m. the protesters had left the freeway, and no arrests have been made."

$1 BILLION amphetamine drug bust

Those bins are full of the pills, which were produced by ISIS and seized in Italy.  Video at CNN shows the train of those carts, which weighed 15 U.S. tons.

Supposedly a coincidence

Discussed at BoingBoingI haven't found confirmation that this shirt is being marketed by the Trump campaign itself.  Several readers have confirmed that this shirt is being sold at the official Donald Trump campaign website.

"Museum glass" illustrated

The discussion thread focuses on the problems when this glass is used for doors.

01 July 2020

Coronavirus testing problems ahead

As reported in The Atlantic:
The United States is once again at risk of outstripping its COVID-19 testing capacity, an ominous development that would deny the country a crucial tool to understand its pandemic in real time.

The American testing supply chain is stretched to the limit, and the ongoing outbreak in the South and West could overwhelm it, according to epidemiologists and testing-company executives. While the country’s laboratories have added tremendous capacity in the past few months—the U.S. now tests about 550,000 people each day, a fivefold increase from early April—demand for viral tests is again outpacing supply.

If demand continues to accelerate and shortages are not resolved, then turnaround times for test results will rise, tests will effectively be rationed, and the number of infections that are never counted in official statistics will grow. Any plan to contain the virus will depend on fast and accurate testing, which can identify newly infectious people before they set off new outbreaks. Without it, the U.S. is in the dark.

The delays have already started. Yesterday, Quest Diagnostics, one of the country’s largest medical-testing companies, said that its systems were overwhelmed and that it would now be able to deliver COVID-19 test results in one day only for hospitalized patients, patients facing emergency surgery, and symptomatic health-care workers. Everyone else now must wait three to five days for a test result...
More at the link.

Mass die-off of elephants in Botswana

As reported in The Guardian:
More than 350 elephants have died in northern Botswana in a mysterious mass die-off described by scientists as a “conservation disaster”. 
A cluster of elephant deaths was first reported in the Okavango Delta in early May, with 169 individuals dead by the end of the month. By mid June, the number had more than doubled, with 70% of the deaths clustered around waterholes... 
The Botswana government has not yet tested samples so there is no information on what is causing the deaths or whether they could pose a risk to human health. The two main possibilities are poisoning or an unknown pathogen. Anthrax – initially considered the most likely cause – has been ruled out.
More at the link.

Shame on her

Via facepalm.

30 June 2020

How to solve the coronavirus pandemic

I'll just add here that Donald Trump has not attended a meeting of his coronavirus task force since April.  He has apparently been busy with other things he considers more important.

29 June 2020

New word of the day: Uterine didelphys

"Kelly Fairhurst, 28, only learned she had uterus didelphys, a condition where a woman has two wombs, when she went for her 12-week scan. She was also told she was carrying twins, one in each womb... Fairhurst, who was also surprised to be told she had two cervixes... Doctors have told Fairhurst, who lives in Braintree, Essex, that she might have two separate labours and the plan is for her to have both of the babies by cesarean section."
More details at The Guardian, via Neatorama.  The terminology was new to me, so I had to look it up:
Uterus didelphys (sometimes also uterus didelphis) represents a uterine malformation where the uterus is present as a paired organ when the embryogenetic fusion of the Müllerian ducts fails to occur. As a result, there is a double uterus with two separate cervices, and possibly a double vagina as well. Each uterus has a single horn linked to the ipsilateral fallopian tube that faces its ovary. 
Most non-human mammals do not have a single uterus with no separation of horns. Marsupials and rodents have a double uterus (uterus duplex). In other animals (e.g. nematodes), the term 'didelphic' refers to a double genital tract, as opposed to monodelphic, with a single tract.
The "di" part is easy to understand in a duplicated system.  What about the "delphys"/"delphic" part?  That's directly from the Greek for "womb."

Which leads us to "Delphi" -
In myths dating to the classical period of Ancient Greece (510–323 BC), Zeus determined the site of Delphi when he sought to find the centre of his "Grandmother Earth" (Gaia). He sent two eagles flying from the eastern and western extremities, and the path of the eagles crossed over Delphi where the omphalos, or navel of Gaia was found.  
The name Delphi comes from the same root as δελφύς delphys, "womb" and may indicate archaic veneration of Gaia at the site. Apollo is connected with the site by his epithet Delphinios, "the Delphinian". The epithet is connected with dolphins in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (line 400), recounting the legend of how Apollo first came to Delphi in the shape of a dolphin, carrying Cretan priests on his back.
So the word "dolphin" is also related:
The name is originally from Greek δελφίς (delphís), "dolphin", which was related to the Greek δελφύς (delphus), "womb". The animal's name can therefore be interpreted as meaning "a 'fish' with a womb". The name was transmitted via the Latin delphinus (the romanization of the later Greek δελφῖνος – delphinos), which in Medieval Latin became dolfinus and in Old French daulphin, which reintroduced the ph into the word. The term mereswine (that is, "sea pig") has also historically been used.
And from "dolphin" we get "delphinium":
The genus name Delphinium derives from the Ancient Greek word δελφίνιον (delphínion) which means "dolphin", a name used in De Materia Medica for some kind of larkspur. Pedanius Dioscorides said the plant got its name because of its dolphin-shaped flowers.
From there we could probably go to Philadelphia, and to other "delph" words. And for those interested, there is a condition called diphallia (two penises), but we're not going there today.

Door stacks, AKA "the gates of hell"

The top one appears to have been modified; the second is apparently a more conventional (?) recruitment (?) video.  There is a compilation of them here, filmed with the annoying vertical format, a discussion of them at Reddit, and some explanatory notes at Atlas Obscura and at Neatorama.

I'll defer any personal commentary, since this phenomenon appears to occur in a separate reality with which I am not familiar.

Reposted from 2016 for reasons that escape me.

Movies may make use of "scale doubles"

On the left Gandalf's "stunt double."  On the right the "scale double" for scenes where Gandalf interacts with hobbits.  You learn something every day.

28 June 2020

Not what you think

Just soapy water going down a drain.

Dumpster at a grocery store

Via Wellthatsucks, where the title "coolers down for a few minutes" may or may not be precise, but the result is apparent.  Informed commentary at the link by various people who have worked in the food industry.

Valved masks are NOT appropriate for coronavirus

A valved mask decreases the work of breathing (on expiration) for those who labor in dusty environments, but the facilitated exit of expired air runs counter to the need to protect others during the pandemic.

Also worth noting that the "KN95" designation does NOT mean that this is an "N95" mask with optimal filtering.  The KN is a manufacturer's name for the product, designed to be deceptive to buyers.


I understand and can cope when outages last minutes or hours, but when it stretches to a day or more, it becomes a potential problem.

Map via DownDetector.

27 June 2020

26 June 2020

I wonder how many kids received miniature monkeys?

The above is an advertisement on the back of a 1960 comic book.  To win the prize, you had to find five objects in the cartoon that started with the letter "C," then have 20 of your friends order photo enlargements.

Limit of 2 monkeys per person.

This is an M-44 "cyanide bomb." Don't trigger it.

“The United States government put a cyanide bomb 350ft from my house, and killed my dog and poisoned my child,” said Theresa Mansfield, Canyon’s mother... 
M-44s, also known as “cyanide bombs”, are baited and spring-loaded tubes that spray an orange plume of cyanide powder when triggered. Aimed at coyotes and other canids that predate livestock, they killed 6,500 animals in 2018 alone... 
Public concern about Wildlife Services’ practices has been growing for years. According to a list of incidents compiled by the environmental group Predator Defense, roughly 40 domestic pets have been killed by M-44s across the country since 2000, and numerous humans have been exposed... 
“I do not like the idea that if I am wandering on public land or my children are wandering on it or my wife, that we can stumble across and be poisoned by an exploding cyanide device or that our dog might be killed,”...
More at The Guardian.

Cuckoo recorded migration of 26,000 km

"When Onon the common cuckoo took off from Mongolia last June no one expected him to make a 26,000 km round trip to southern Africa
Onon has not only amazed conservationists, but gripped social media across the globe. As coronavirus lockdowns brought the world to a virtual standstill, fans followed online updates from the Mongolia Cuckoo Project, watching in awe as Onon cruised across oceans and made 27 border crossings in 16 countries."

"Heredity can flow 'upstream' from child to parent..."

"In pregnant women, fetal stem cells can cross the placenta to enter the mother’s bloodstream, where they may persist for years. If Mom gets pregnant again, the stem cells of her firstborn, still circulating in her blood, can cross the placenta in the other direction, commingling with those of the younger sibling. Heredity can thus flow “upstream,” from child to parent—and then over and down to future siblings...  
The ethics of some reproductive technologies become blurrier in light of the newly complex understanding of heredity’s cross-currents. A maternal surrogate, for example, will likely exchange stem cells with the fetus she carries, opening the door to claims that baby and surrogate are related. If the surrogate later carries her own baby, or that of a different woman, are the children related?"
More at The Atlantic.

Americans eat dessert for breakfast

Thirteen minutes long, but engagingly well done.  I enjoyed it because for months now I've been skipping breakfasts in order to fast eighteen hours a day.

25 June 2020

Map of the lost continent of Zealandia

"Zealandia — or Te Riu-a-Māui, as it's referred to in the indigenous Māori language — is a 2 million-square-mile (5 million square kilometers) continent east of Australia, beneath modern-day New Zealand. Scientists discovered the sprawling underwater mass in the 1990s, then gave it formal continent status in 2017... 
Now, GNS Science — a geohazards research and consultancy organization owned by the government of New Zealand — hopes to raise Zealandia (in public awareness, at least) with a suite of new maps and interactive tools that capture the lost continent in unprecedented detail."

If you don't think everything's getting back to normal...

... just ask the blowup sex doll at the next table.  Story at The Washington Post.

24 June 2020

A beautiful day to meet a Tawny Emperor

Blue skies and 70 degrees = mandatory walk-at-the-Arboretum day.

The lilacs were post-bloom, as were the fruit trees, but the shade trees were fully leafed out to show their magnificent form and colors, especially in the maple section.  The turkeys stayed socially-distanced from me.

When I got to the boardwalk over the wetland, I was greeted by a local resident who flew onto my pantleg...

The Tawny Emperor (and the very similar Hackberry Emperor) are well-known for their willingness to interact with humans, so when I saw it down there I moistened my fingertip with saliva, and he/she eagerly hopped on...

Butterflies live in an environment that has abundant potassium, but proportionally less available sodium, so saliva or sweat from humans is a real treat.  Before I left, she posed on the handrail of the boardwalk for this portrait (photo enlarges to gigantic with a click):

After reporting the sighting at the Wisconsin Butterflies website, I discovered that this butterfly is seldom seen so far away from the Mississippi River Valley western border of Wisconsin.

Addendum:  I returned to the Arboretum the next day to try to get a photo of the tops of the wings of this uncommon butterfly.  Temperatures had risen from the pleasant mid-70s to humid mid-80s, but it turns out that hot, sweaty days are the best for getting extreme closeups of human-friendly butterflies.  An hour and about 60 photos later, here are two extreme closeups of the Tawny Emperor (Asterocampo clyton).  Click the photos for fullscreen.

Humans for scale

At the top, Michelangelo's famous "David" statue, and below a flag flown on a Spanish ship at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.  (Links are vias; I don't have source material).  Photo credit Alberto Pizzoli/AFP for the David one.

This anti-Trump ad was funded by Republicans

The group is called The Lincoln Project.

And let's make this clear.  After the Tulsa speech, Trump apologists and strategists said that Trump was "only kidding" in that speech.  Reporters asked Trump the next day whether that was true.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted he was serious when he revealed that he had directed his administration to slow coronavirus testing in the United States, shattering the defenses of senior White House aides who argued Trump’s remarks were made in jest. 
I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear,” Trump told reporters, when pressed on whether his comments at a campaign event Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., were intended as a joke.

Aftermath of the Tulsa debacle

Discussed at pics.

AOC blows away primary opponent 70-30

In yesterday's New York primary election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez overwhelmed Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, the former CNBC business channel commentator with a wealthy Republican Trump-donating husband, garnering about 70% of the vote, and proving wrong the critics who said that her initial election was  "fluke" because her opponent didn't try to win.  In this primary, millions of dark money dollars supported an opponent who was chosen because of a hyphenated Latin name, not for ideological reasons.

Here is a recent AOC campaign video that ran in Queens and the Bronx:

And here is her Twitter thread, for those who want to monitor the runup to the November general election.

23 June 2020

A woman describes her encounter with a strange man

(You may need to unmute at the icon in the UR corner)


Amaretto doesn't freeze easily

My favorite way to relax at the end of a long day is to sit in a comfy chair with a good book and a glass of Amaretto Disaronno.  That little glass (not sure if that size has a name...) holds about 60cc and I can nurse it for about 20 sips, each just enough to coat the tongue to savor that intense almond flavor for a long time while reading a couple chapters.

For a while I was chilling my amaretto with an ice cube, but that of course diluted the drink as it melted, so yesterday I experimented with a trial of amaretto ice cubes.  Didn't work.  Perhaps not evident in the snapshot above is that the amaretto in the final two tray slots did not expand and freeze - it just converted into a cold slush which I had to spoon into the glass.

Searching the web, I found an excellent article at The Spruce Eats with all the relevant information.  Amaretto is 64 proof, with a freezing point of -23C (-10F) and is "safe for the freezer" (meaning that it will chill but not freeze).

I might try this project again next winter.  It's not unusual to get nighttime temps of -20F or lower in south central Wisconsin in midwinter, so I may set out an ice cube tray with amaretto then.

I'll finish this post by appending information from a post I wrote many years ago about cold distillation.  I never have found confirmation or refutation of the legend of Napoleon's frozen wines during his retreat from Russia.

"Freezing Wine" (posted in 2009)

Where we live in the Upper Midwest it is a common practice for people to use their screen porch to chill and even store foods. Several days ago we left a half-full bottle of wine there and discovered that it had frozen solid; temperatures here have been reaching -15 F (-26 C) at night.

Since this was a fine ($8) Wisconsin wine (Prairie Fume, Wollersheim - #5 of the top 100 wines east of the Rockies in 2004), we decided to thaw it and finish the bottle. Imagine my puzzlement when, upon thawing, the wine bottle exhibited a fairly substantial precipitate of crystals on the bottom. After receiving reassurances from my wife that she had not slipped any surprises into the wine, I tried to decant the supernatant, but the crystals spilled into the glass and I drank them. The flavor was o.k. and I appear to have suffered no ill effects.

Googling this subject today, I found the identity of the crystals:
Chances are that freezing and thawing won't seriously damage the wine itself, although on general principles I wouldn't try it with a treasured rarity. Near-freezing temperatures may precipitate out some of the wine's natural acidity in the form of insoluble tartrate crystals, but most authorities argue that this doesn't perceptibly affect the flavor of the wine.
Tangentially related is "ice wine" -
"... a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, so the result is a concentrated, often very sweet wine. The most famous (and expensive) ice wines are German Eiswein and Canadian ice wine..."
There were a number of discussion threads in which people wrongly proclaimed that freezing wine was impossible because of the alcohol content. The correct response is that the freezing point of pure alcohol is -173 F, but wine with low alcohol content can freeze with temps in the low teens Fahrenheit.

Which serves as an introduction to my next query. I seem to remember reading somewhere that during Napoleon's winter campaign to Russia the wine froze (as of course did the horses and the soldiers), and that from the frozen wine bottles a purer alcohol could be harvested. Googling that question brought me to this comment at a "home brew" thread:
"Grandfather would make seasonal wines. Whatever fruit was in season... He then had a rather unique way to turn the wine into brandy (cognac). He would transfer the wine to a plastic jug and put it in the freezer. The water in the wine would freeze, but the alcohol would not. He then transferred this to bottles and capped them. The result being that we had natural flavored brandy of all types..."
What's being described there seems to be a form of cold distillation. That led me to a very interesting site entitled "Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages."
Another method, known as fractional crystalization, is done by inverting the process and freezing the beverage instead of boiling it. This works for very similar reasons to that of normal heat distillation, namely, the differential in freezing points of the two liquids involved. Water freezes at a temperature of 0 C, while ethyl alcohol does not freeze until reaching -114 C. This allows the water to be frozen out of the liquid, leaving behind the ethyl alcohol, as well as the other alcohols and esters. This produces a drink of a rather different character from heat distillation, as it contains everything except water, while heat distilled beverages leave everything behind except alcohol.
The website also has a nice table of freezing points for different alcohol concentrations, explanations of the differences between brandies, whiskies, and cognacs, and an introduction to the distilling of liquor in medieval times, citing recipes in "Delightes for Ladies" -
"...a book of recipes and household hints for women, written... in 1602. Its full title is Delightes for ladies: to adorn their persons, tables, closets, and distillatories with beauties, banquets, perfumes and waters. A successful book in its day, some of the recipes have survived to be in relatively common use even 400 years later, in particular the various mixed alcoholic beverages."
Ladies of the 1600s had... "distillatories" ??

At this point I'll have to stop exploring the subject because I'm getting way out of my depth. Perhaps Morchava will know of something in her library of medieval literature, or maybe Gail over at Scribal Terror can come up with more information or images of ladies' distillatories.

And all this because we left a bottle of wine on the screen porch overnight...

Addendum: here's an illustration of a medieval still that Gail found -

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...