29 April 2020


A time of forsythia
When people mythia
And want to be wythia
And maybe kythia
I first encountered this poem over 30 years ago in a print publication called The Insomniac (March 1989), where the citation was to a book called Llovable Lloyd's Poems. It appeared not to have been stored anywhere on the internet - at least not at any site searchable by Google (and with search terms like mythia/withia/kythia it shouldn't have been hard to locate), so I posted it to TYWKIWDBI in 2009.

Reposting today because I hiked the University of Wisconsin Arboretum yesterday and was pleased to see the forsythia putting on its typical first-of-the-spring floral show.  Otherwise there were few plants in bloom:

The Madison area is getting gentle soaking rains and forecasted temps to the 60s and 70s this week, so we expect a spectacular display from the fruit trees and the immense lilac collection by mid-May.

As I was preparing to leave, I was startled to notice that the cars in the parking lot were "socially distanced":

Nine cars parked in alternate spots only (extending beyond the field of view).  The arboretum has cancelled all indoor events and closed the visitor center, and has issued coronavirus guidelines which basically consist of commonsense social distancing on hiking trails.  There has been no call for visitors to park their vehicles 12 feet apart (and the distribution shown is not a normal pattern, because visitors typically cluster their vehicles at the entry points for paths and walkways).  I've seen this pattern in parking areas near carryout food sites, and suspect it represents typical midwestern commonsense behavior.

A hotel in the Netherlands

"This visually 4-star hotel has an impressive façade. The structure is a lively stacking of various traditional houses to be found in the Zaan region. The interiors of the modern hotel rooms also reflect the rich history of the Zaan area: the traditional products, the pioneers of the local craft industries and the families which made the area world famous." 
A photo gallery and more info at Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam. Embedded image via.

This is not the year !!

Via the BlackPeopleTwitter subreddit.

Former Labradoodle breeder chosen to direct the U.S. coronavirus response

As reported by Reuters:
On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared...  
Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years...  
Harrison, 37, was an unusual choice, with no formal education in public health, management, or medicine and with only limited experience in the fields. In 2006, he joined HHS in a one-year stint as a “Confidential Assistant” to Azar, who was then deputy secretary. He also had posts working for Vice President Dick Cheney, the Department of Defense and a Washington public relations company.

Before joining the Trump Administration in January 2018, Harrison’s official HHS biography says, he “ran a small business in Texas.” The biography does not disclose the name or nature of that business, but his personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles...  
This January, Harrison became a key manager of the HHS virus response. “Everyone had to report up through him,” said one HHS official...  
By the end of February, Azar and Harrison were no longer running the White House task force. That month, Vice President Pence took control.
More information at Reuters - whence the image (cropped for size).

Librarian in lockdown

Via Miss Cellania.

Dabba ("The Lunchbox") - updated

This was the best movie I've watched in a long time.  Decidedly not a Hollywood-style movie (no killing, no sex, no explosions), The Lunchbox reminded me very much of You've Got Mail.   Some of you will recognize Irrfan Khan from his role in Life of Pi.  The acting is superb, and the movie is filmed with a sensitivity that allows moments of quiet to be extended and savored.
Tiffin carriers or dabbas are a kind of lunch box used widely in South Asia for tiffin meals. From South Asia, they spread to and now are widely used in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore as well.  They are known as rantang in Indonesian and mangkuk tingkat (leveled bowls) in Malay. In Arab countries they are called Safartas Arabic سفرطاس meaning travel bowls. They are also used extensively in Hungary, primarily to transport restaurant cheap workday midday meals for consumption at home. The Hungarian word for a tiffin box is éthordó (food carrier). A very similar device is called Henkelmann in Germany. It usually is round or in an oval shape similar to military campaign dishes. The Henkelmann was very popular until the 1960s, but is very rarely used by Germans today.

Normally they come in two or three tiers, although more elaborate versions can have four. The bottom-most tier, being the largest, is the one usually used for rice. Tiffin carriers are opened by unlocking a small catch on either side of the handle. The Hungarian version will typically contain a soup, main course and piece of cake.

In the Indian city of Mumbai, there is a complex and efficient delivery system that regularly delivers hot lunches packed in dabbas to city office workers from their suburban homes or from a caterer. It uses delivery workers known as dabbawalas.
The movie was released three years ago, so I was able to get it from our library with almost no waiting time.  It's also available from Netflix.  I highly recommend it to you.

Addendum January 2017:   An extensive article at the BBC praises the system -
Despite relying on an unskilled workforce, a two-tier management system and nothing more high-tech than Mumbai’s train network, this 5,000-strong cooperative is recognised as one of the world’s most efficient logistics systems. They make a tidy side-line hosting executives from delivery giants like FedEx and Amazon. Even Richard Branson has spent a day learning their secrets...

Most dabbawalas are quick to dismiss their new digital rivals. “There's no competition. They won’t be able to keep up with the service we provide,” says Gavande. “There's only one Mumbai dabbawala.”..

It’s hard to argue. The organisation runs its low-cost service at a very high level of performance. A 2010 study by the Harvard Business School graded it “Six Sigma”, which means the dabbawalas make fewer than 3.4 mistakes per million transactions. With deliveries to and from roughly 200,000 customers each day that translates to little more than 400 delayed or missing dabbas in a year.
Reposted from 2016 to commemorate the death of Irrfan Khan.  Those of you who know him only from his best-known movies should check out The Lunchbox - and also The Puzzle:

I highly recommend both of them

28 April 2020

Mantids mating

Note the female has eaten the head and front legs of the male, "but he can mate for hours despite his loss."

Credit: Alan Henderson/Minibeast Wildlife Photography.  Many truly remarkable photos at that website.

"Round the twist"

A photo illustrating "humans being bros" included a British phrase not often heard on this side of the pond:
"I am going round the twist with nothing to read."
The discussion at Reddit includes some attempts to explain the etymology:
“... all we have is just one entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, from Frank Bowen’s, Sea Slang: a Dictionary of the Old-Timers’ Expressions and Epithets, dated 1929. He said that the phrase was “an old naval term for anybody who is mad.”... Readers have pointed out that a bend in maritime terminology is a class of knots... This might suggest restraining a madman at sea by the use of ropes and knots... There’s also the related term loopy for eccentricity or craziness. Jonathon Green, in the Chambers Slang Dictionary, says that it's likewise nautical slang, dating from slightly later than round the bend... with the idea being of a person who is twisted or out of true, who is “bent” in a figuratively eccentric way. To what extent round the bend or loopy are linked to knots is unclear, and almost certainly no longer possible to discover.”

"Where the sun don't shine" (normally...)

Instagram influencers are promoting "perineum sunning" as a health practice.
“In a mere 30 seconds of sunlight on your butthole, you will receive more energy from this electric node than you would in an entire day being outside with your clothes on,” says an influencer, who goes by Ra of Earth. In a viral video that has racked up more than 35,000 views, he gestures toward the sun as three naked men lie down, point their backsides to the sky and make sounds of pleasure.

“[Thirty] seconds of direct sunlight injection to the anal orifice is equivalent to being outside in the sun all day!”
You can read more about this in the New York Post.

Addendumcomplication reported (anal tissue is very sensitive to sunburn)

Reposted from last year for those wary of ingesting disinfectants but still considering letting UV light into the body..

A cartoon from 1992

More at The Far Side.

On the lighter side

Via Reddit.

Young people with Covid-19 presenting with strokes

Respiratory distress syndrome is scary enough, but a New England Journal of Medicine article describes young people presenting with major strokes:
We report five cases of large-vessel stroke in patients younger than 50 years of age who presented to our health system in New York City. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection was diagnosed in all five patients. 
Cough, headache, and chills lasting 1 week developed in a previously healthy 33-year-old woman (Patient 1) (Table 1). She then had progressive dysarthria with both numbness and weakness in the left arm and left leg over a period of 28 hours...  
CT angiography showed a partial infarction of the right middle cerebral artery with a partially occlusive thrombus in the right carotid artery at the cervical bifurcation
The table embedded at the link provides clinical data on the five patients, who were age 33, 37, 39, 44, and 49. All of them were screened for other stroke risk factors (smoking, HT, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, a fib, CHF, illicit drug use, and neck trauma). More information at the link.

During this pandemic, the NEJM is dropping the paywall for articles related to Covid-19 and is loosening review criteria to facilitate rapid transmission of information.
To rapidly communicate information on the global clinical effort against Covid-19, the Journal has initiated a series of case reports that offer important teaching points or novel findings. The case reports should be viewed as observations rather than as recommendations for evaluation or treatment. In the interest of timeliness, these reports are evaluated by in-house editors, with peer review reserved for key points as needed.
Readers can browse the Covid-19 publications here.   I plan to link to selected items of interest as time permits.

25 April 2020


I've become so jaded by the internet that I don't often LOL, but I did for this.

Divertimento #178

When your phone catches fire in your pants pocket
These boxes are not moving (awesome optical illusion)
Extremely interesting latch for a sliding door
Baby trying to stand up in the womb
Flamethrowing drone burns debris off power line
Stop-motion video with playing cards

Nature and Science
Honeycomb welo opal
Space shuttle thermal tiles are designed to not conduct heat
Timelapse of ten hours of work to release a fossil
Waves rippling over sand is oddly satisfying
When you burn steel wool, it gets heavier
Security cam footage of auditorium in a tornado

Coronavirus task force shows how to transmit coronavirus
The streets of Venice before and after coronavirus
"Quarantine day 69"
An example of "humans being bros"
Airline pilot working from home
The most covidiotic covidiot I've seen yet
European air traffic before and after coronavirus
Madison man offers unfriendly response to coronavirus protesters

Ferrett wants to show you her babies
Rat turns the tables on a cat
30 hummingbirds bathing
Dog with two legs - on the same side -  is a happy dog
This girl was lucky she was wearing a brassiere
Elephant uses a tool to clean between its toes
Foster dog wants you to be covered by your blankie
Learning motor control takes time

Girl hides in school locker for prank, but chooses the wrong locker
"I saw nothing"
Idiot farting around on a bowling alley
Too much pepper on your egg?  Vacuum it off.

Impressive or clever
Finger tricks to pull on little kids
Henna art
There are more crabs at the beach than you realize
Cat prevents baby from falling down stairs
Clever trick explained in the comment thread
Immense paper plane
Boy and girl demonstrate a dance move
Girls ankle transplanted to become a knee (rotationplasty explained at M.D. Anderson)
Tool for grafting trees

Sports and athleticism
Soccer move you will need to replay a couple times.  With a victory dance.
Next-level beach volleyball

Humorous or cheerful
Bird hoards toilet paper
Security cam: girl finds out she is being adopted
Dog loves coming home to his bed

Today's embedded images are photos of prey impaled by shrikes.  Credit Rachel Hopper, from an impressive gallery at Audubon.

A famous janitor at St. Olaf

"An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, to the small Lutheran college of St. Olaf's in southern Minnesota.  He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itself, and despised the janitor's work with which he was to pay his way through."
--- F. Scott Fitzgerald's description of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

24 April 2020

An inside view of the Mexican monarch swarm

Filmed for PBS with a hummingbird-sized drone.  Documentaries like this are the reason videos have a full-screen icon in the right lower corner.

Maybe it's time to start reading about negative interest rates

The math is simple:  Deposit $1000 now, leave it untouched, and next year the balance is $998.  Here are excerpts from an article today in Bloomberg:
Unprecedented situations require unprecedented actions. That’s why the U.S. Federal Reserve should fight a rapidly deepening recession by taking interest rates below zero for the first time ever...

Why the fear of negative rates? A decade ago, the answer would have been that it was impossible to go below zero: Banks would simply avoid the charges by withdrawing their reserve deposits and holding the funds in paper currency, which pays zero interest. But economists now recognize that doesn’t happen, because it’s costly to store billions (or trillions) of dollars of paper currency safely. Several European central banks, as well as the Bank of Japan, have successfully taken interest rates below zero.
A Schwab publication addresses why anyone would tolerate negative interest rates:
There are four main reasons that an investor might choose to buy a negative yielding bond:
  1. Safety. Investors seeking safety in a time of disruption might choose to pay for the security of a Treasury bond. U.S. Treasury securities are considered risk-free, and when markets are in turmoil, investors may prefer to lose a small amount in exchange for knowing that the rest of their principal is safe.
  2. Deflation fears. If an investor believes that prices will fall, then the purchasing power of the money saved, even with a negative yield, could rise.
  3. Speculation. Some investors may believe that yields will continue to fall and therefore believe that the price of their negative-yielding bonds will rise, providing capital gains that offset the negative yield.
  4. Regulatory requirements. Institutional investors like banks may be forced into holding Treasury securities by regulation and have to accept the cost of those negative yields to comply with requirements.
We don’t suggest that investors purchase bonds with negative yields. However, investors may end up holding them at some point if the economy continues to weaken or flight-to-safety Treasury buying intensifies. 
And here are other links for those interested:
Who wins and who loses because of negative interest rates? (SwissInfo)
Why the Fed may need to slash interest rates to zero. (CNN)
Should we love or hate negative interest rates? (Washington Post)
Negative interest rates make sense? (Bloomberg)
"There may come a time in the not-too-distant future when investors don’t expect to collect fixed interest payments from sovereign debt obligations, nor do they expect to earn anything from parking their cash in a savings account. That’s no longer a bond market in the traditional sense. If that sounds like something of a “wealth tax,” that’s because it effectively is. The two choices are to invest in risky but potentially lucrative endeavors or to keep that money safe but have it erode slowly through zero or negative interest rates."
Negative mortgages set another milestone (Bloomberg)
"The world’s headlong dash to zero or negative interest rates just passed another milestone: Homebuyers in Denmark effectively are being paid to take out 10-year mortgages."
Negative interest rates are coming (Yahoo)
And in Europe, it was postulated that negative rates would never fly in the consumer sphere in terms of banks paying back depositors less than they put in their savings accounts, but that’s now changing. Banks in Denmark and Switzerland are now charging customers to hold deposits. And on the flip side, and also in Denmark, mortgages with negative rates are available. That’s right, you get a mortgage from the bank, and the bank essentially pays you each month. A three-year adjustable rate mortgage priced at negative .28% there recently.
How negative interest rates work (Investopedia

Asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus are the problem

Excerpts from an article in today's New England Journal of Medicine:
When Covid-19 burst onto the global scene, public health officials initially deployed interventions that were used to control severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, including symptom-based case detection and subsequent testing to guide isolation and quarantine. This initial approach was justified by the many similarities between SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, including high genetic relatedness, transmission primarily through respiratory droplets, and the frequency of lower respiratory symptoms (fever, cough, and shortness of breath) with both infections developing a median of 5 days after exposure.

However, despite the deployment of similar control interventions, the trajectories of the two epidemics have veered in dramatically different directions. Within 8 months, SARS was controlled after SARS-CoV-1 had infected approximately 8100 persons in limited geographic areas. Within 5 months, SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 2.6 million people and continues to spread rapidly around the world.

What explains these differences in transmission and spread? A key factor in the transmissibility of Covid-19 is the high level of SARS-CoV-2 shedding in the upper respiratory tract, even among presymptomatic patients, which distinguishes it from SARS-CoV-1, where replication occurs mainly in the lower respiratory tract...

An important finding of this report is that more than half the residents of this skilled nursing facility (27 of 48) who had positive tests were asymptomatic at testing. Moreover, live coronavirus clearly sheds at high concentrations from the nasal cavity even before symptom development...

Asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is the Achilles’ heel of Covid-19 pandemic control through the public health strategies we have currently deployed. Symptom-based screening has utility, but epidemiologic evaluations of Covid-19 outbreaks within skilled nursing facilities such as the one described by Arons et al. strongly demonstrate that our current approaches are inadequate...
More at the link.

Unsheared for seven years

Perhaps our future under prolonged lockdown.  Details at CBC, via Neatorama.

23 April 2020

The Rub' al Khali

The Arabian Peninsula's Empty Quarter, known as Rub' al Khali, is the world's largest sand sea, holding about half as much sand as the Sahara Desert. The Empty Quarter covers 583,000 square kilometers (225,000 square miles), and stretches over parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. The Enhanced Thematic Mapper on NASA's Landsat 7 satellite captured this image of the Empty Quarter on August 26, 2001. (NASA/Robert Simmon, Landsat,USGS)
Text and photo from a Boston.com The Big Picture 2009 gallery. More info here.

Sweden is now coal-free. Two years ahead of schedule.

"Power utility Stockholm Exergi has announced the permanent closure of coal-fired co-generation plant KVV6, in Hjorthagen, eastern Stockholm.  The Scandinavian country had planned to rid itself of coal by 2022 but appears to have decommissioned its facilities two years early...

With the KVV6 plant closure announced on Thursday, the move appeared to come a day ahead of the closure of Austria’s last coal plant, the Mellach district heating plant, on Friday. Belgium was the first European nation to exit coal, in 2016...

Other European nations plan to exit coal in the next few years. France expects to shut its last coal-fired facility by 2022, Slovakia and Portugal in 2023, the U.K. in 2024 and Ireland and Italy a year later. Euro neighbors Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, Hungary and Denmark also plan to ditch coal-fired power generation this decade, in line with Paris Agreement climate commitments.

Against ‘relentless’ competition from solar and wind power, the financial case for coal is becoming incrementally worse."

Another upside to the pandemic

March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the U.S. since 2002
As first reported on Twitter by Washington Post reporter Robert Klemko, there hasn't been a March without a school shooting since 2002 — the year most current high school seniors were born.

Data from the National School Safety Center and National School Safety and Security Services confirm that there have been school shootings every March since 2002. That year, a 13-year-old student brought a gun and a hit list to school but was subdued by a school resource officer deputy before he could pull the trigger.

The "March for Science" began three years ago

"The March for Science (formerly known as the Scientists' March on Washington) is an international series of rallies and marches held on Earth Day. The inaugural march was held on April 22, 2017 in Washington, D.C., and more than 600 other cities across the world. According to organizers, the march is a non-partisan movement to celebrate science and the role it plays in everyday lives.  The goals of the marches and rallies were to emphasize that science upholds the common good and to call for evidence-based policy in the public's best interest.

Particular issues of science policy raised by the marchers include support for evidence-based policymaking, as well as support for government funding for scientific research, government transparency, and government acceptance of the scientific consensus on climate change and evolution. The march is part of growing political activity by American scientists in the wake of the November 2016 elections and the 2017 Women's March."


A compilation of protesters from rallies in various states.  These are not people who are concerned that their business will not survive.  These people don't believe the danger exists (although some of them wear masks while protesting).  They have been brainwashed into believing conspiracy theories and are woefully ignorant of basic facts.  This fake "patriotism" is dangerously misplaced.

And I'm closing comments for this post.  This is not debatable.  You can comment on this discussion thread.  And don't leave comments on other posts.  Move on.

22 April 2020

Gleanings from "A Walk Through the Year"

Over the years I have read and enjoyed about a half-dozen of Edwin Way Teale's books.  Here are some tidbits and interesting words from one of his classics, which I will now donate to our local library:
"At the end of my walk today, I lean on the top pole of the meadow barway while the sunset fades."  A passage into a field, closed by bars that can be lifted out of the posts.

"The [crows] had discovered a great horned owl on its nest.  This large bird of prey, a creature as fierce as a wildcat, had been pecked to death by the crows.  It might have escaped by flight but, rather than desert its two nearly fledged young, it remained, bearing the full assault of the attacking storm of birds..."

"Instead of snatching up a seed and dashing away, as is the custom of the chickadees, this bird spins in a complete circle.  In some accident of flight... it has lost the sight of one eye.  It can see only to the left... I notice that it is continually on guard, alert for danger.  By watchfulness, making the most of its one good eye, it compensates as best it can for its immense handicap.  By whirling in a complete circle, making a swift survey of its surroundings, it provides the only possible substitute for full vision... On its last trip before I turn away, it alights and rotates, carrying its good eye through a full 360 degrees, one time after another in rapid sequence until it has turned thirteen times.  Only then does it feel transiently secure.  By such extreme vigilance has the handicapped bird survived in a hostile world."

"... I wind among the pinxter flowers, the pink azaleas, in full bloom."  Or "pinkster", a type of rhododendron.

(June 13).  A description of harvesting the pollen from male (uppermost) flowers on cattails. "Mixed with batter, it will contribute to a special delicacy of this time of year - cattail-pollen pancakes.  Served with maple syrup, they possess a delicate haunting flavor vauely suggesting corn fritters."  Recipe and also here.

(July 11).  Description of a day-flying moth which has become entrapped in the flowers of a milkweed.  "Each of the clustered  flowers is equipped with five inset traps - tapering slits into which the feet of visitors may slip and become imprisoned.." Photos and discussion.

"Why is it, I wonder, that nature has provided such a host of enemies for every useful esculent?  It is truly a mystery."  Something edible, especially vegetables and mushrooms.

"When William Shakespeare's plays were first performed in seventeenth-century England, the brilliant stabs of stage lightning were produced by igniting the spore dust of the ground pine... When we came home, I threw successive handfuls of the golden dust into the fireplace.  Instantaneous bursts of blue-tinged light stabbed across our living room..."  Lycopodium powder.

The eggs of the Argiope garden spider survive the winter.  Within those eggs are transmitted all the knowledge needed for the construction of the elaborate web with its decorative stabilimentum.

If you feed birds in the winter, remember also to put out some grit or sand for them.  "Without grit in their gizzards to aid in the crushing and grinding of hard seeds, the songbirds of our winter months could not survive.  Experiments have shown that seed-eating birds deprived of grit lost weight and eventually die."

"The gray goshawk is back in the hickory tree.  For several years about this time in winter, one of these swift accipiters from the forests of the north has appeared at Trail Wood.  A genus of hawks, from the Latin word for "hawk."

"A chance encounter?  A falling into place of a vast kaleidoscope of time and space?  A happen-so without significance?  It may have been all of these."  Informal dialect word in U.S and England.

"During the night a brief mizzling fall of freezing rain encased the drifts in a thin shell of ice."  Probably a portmanteau word combining mist and drizzle.

"At the far side of the triangle, a bushlike willow is decorated with a score or more of the furry aments."  A catkin (inflorescence on willow or birch).
And finally, this profound thought:
"We change and as we change our viewpoint alters.  Nothing is ever the same again - not even the past.  We see all in a different light."

The Buick Flamingo (1961)

I didn't remember ever having seen this car on the road or in advertisements, so I had to search for information, which I found at Mac's Motor City Garage:
The Flamingo was based on a production Electra 225 convertible, but with several noteworthy modifications, starting with the color: an eye-searing pearlescent pink. Custom paints with trick pigments and toners—pearls, candies, metalflakes—were just coming into use in the custom car world in the early ’60s, but it would be many years before these finishes would be suitable for standard production cars...

The other key attraction of the Flamingo was the its full-house custom interior, which included two-tone upholstery in pink leather and cranberry brocade. A wide console with bright-metal trim ran between the front bucket seats, although the shift lever for the Turbine Drive automatic transmission remained on the steering column. The clock, mounted in the top of the dash on the production Buick, was relocated to the console riser, where it could possibly be mistaken for a tachometer. But the most novel addition was the pivoting passenger seat, which turned 180 degrees to face the rear passenger seats, ostensibly for outdoor entertaining—tailgate parties and such.
In 1961 I was a freshman in high school with a new driver's license, so you can imagine my thoughts on seeing this photo.   And no stick shift between the bucket seats.  Too bad this never went into production.

Photo via Vector's World, a vehicle-centric blog written by a TYWKIWDBI reader whose screen name long antedated the pandemic.

61,000 chickens euthanized

As reported by the StarTribune:
Kerry Mergen, a contract egg farmer near Albany, Minn., got word on a Wednesday the chickens in his barn would be euthanized. A crew showed up the next morning and started gassing the birds with carbon dioxide.

The sudden drop in demand for food at restaurants, school cafeterias and caterers shut down by the pandemic has ripped through farming. Milk has been dumped, eggs smashed and ripe lettuce plowed under.

Now, farms are killing animals sooner than planned.

Mergen said he initially couldn’t believe it when a field manager from Daybreak Foods, the Lake Mills, Wis.-based firm that owned and paid to feed the flock of 61,000 birds, said they might be killed early. His contract called for the flock to produce eggs until fall...

A primary destination for eggs from the flock — a Cargill Inc. fluid egg plant in Big Lake, Minn. — temporarily shut down last week and laid off 300 employees there. The company cited declining demand for the decision to idle the facility, which handles 800 million eggs a year and sends containers of fluid egg to food-service companies across North America...

Demand for eggs in grocery stores is high and the price of a dozen eggs has risen. But much of the egg-production system is built to provide fluid eggs to food service companies and changing farms to provide eggs for retail is neither simple nor quick.

Mergen said his was one of five egg farms where chickens were euthanized in Minnesota in recent weeks, and that the other four were larger than his farm...

“They come in with carts, put them all in carts, wheel them up to the end, put a hose in that cart and gas them, then dump them over the edge into a conveyor and convey them up into semis and the semis haul them out,” Mergen said. “I was in there for quite a while and the longer I was there the more disgusted and disappointed I was knowing that I’m not going to see anything put back in my checkbook again, so after a while I just simply left.”

By nightfall the chickens were gone, taken to a rendering plant to be turned into dog food, and so was the Mergens’ income from a business they’ve been running for 22 years.

The Mergens made 15.5 cents per dozen eggs and produced 4,500 dozen eggs a day. Mergen said he doesn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, and is on a waiting list for federal aid.
More at the link.

AOC slaps back


Note these protesters are not demanding to go back to work

They want YOU to go back to work.  Discussion thread here.

21 April 2020

The downside of age segregation

Thought-provoking excerpts from an interesting op-ed piece at Bloomberg:
For most of the nation’s history, the idea that people over the age of 65 would voluntarily herd themselves into special communities built around their needs would have seemed absurd, even dystopian. Yet a largely voluntary movement towards segregating people by age has reached extreme levels in recent years – and without receiving much attention at all. The coronavirus outbreak could put an end to it.

In 1850, nearly 70% of individuals age 65 or older lived with their adult children. Most of the rest tended to live in close geographical proximity. As a consequence, older people were more or less evenly distributed throughout the country.

This arrangement was highly functional: The elderly needed help as they aged, and children and grandchildren provided it. In return, the elderly took care of young children, and otherwise pulled their weight around the house.

Home was not the only place where people of different ages mixed together in ways they are all too rare today. Prior to the twentieth century, it was entirely normal to have a one-room schoolhouse catering to both teens and toddlers. When rural communities held quilting parties, everyone from young girls to elderly matrons participated side by side. Farmworkers of all ages toiled together, and armies in the Civil War threw together young boys, older men, and everyone in between...

Several developments fueled this [modern sorting into "age buckets."] The first was a growing belief that older people couldn’t keep up in the fast-paced, modern world of work. Mandatory retirement ages – often coupled with increasingly generous pension benefits – helped push workers out the door at a certain age...

All of this took place against a very gradual decline in the number of old people living with their children.  The mix of public and private retirement programs enabled some of the elderly to live on their own, but there’s evidence that in many cases, children moved away from their parents to pursue economic opportunities, effectively abandoning the older generation. So the elderly, particularly those with retirement savings, embraced a new trend that burst onto the scene after World War II: the retirement community...

In 1965, Congress created Medicare and Medicaid, helping finance the creation of low-budget, state-run “nursing homes” that increasingly warehoused the elderly...  By the 1990s, a growing number of facilities designed to bridge the gap between fun-filled retirement centers and grim nursing homes came into being: the rise of “assisted living” facilities, “memory-care villages,” and other facilities for the elderly...

Ultimately, the U.S. became one of the most age-segregated nations in the world. Recent research indicates that a third of Americans over the age of 55 live exclusively among people in the same age cohort...

The pandemic may change that...
More at the link.

Homemade pot brownies

Recommendations from The Washington Post:
Plenty of high-end bakeries and dispensaries can meet the demand, not to mention delivery services for those isolating at home.

Luckily, [you] can learn to DIY via cookbooks such as “Bong Appetit” or the TV show of the same name, online tutorials from the likes of JeffThe420Chef or the Instagram stories of Monica Lo, a.k.a. Sous Weed. Of course, the functional ingredient matters — but consumers want edibles to be appetizing, too.

If you want [delicious pot brownies]... you need to know one word: cannabutter.

In brief, cannabutter is butter that’s infused with cannabis that’s been toasted to activate the THC (a process called decarboxylation, or “decarbing” for short). Some cooks simmer butter and water mixed with cannabis on the stove top, while others prefer to sous vide; Isaiou favors a rice cooker for this step. The infused butter is cooled and strained; Isaiou goes an extra step and clarifies hers to a gheelike consistency. A second option is to mix cannabis extract into butter or another fat. (Note: In some states cannabutter is available for purchase, but for those who have time on their hands, it’s not a difficult project.) ... among home bakers of edibles, Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate Brownie Mix is a favored starting point.

NOTE: The Washington Post does not condone illicit drug use, so this recipe should be made only by those who live where it is legal do so. This recipe uses 1/4 cup cannabutter, which should have 263 milligrams THC. This means each 2-inch brownie square has about 11 milligrams THC.
Storage Notes: The brownies taste even better the next day and keep well if tightly wrapped. They can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months. The cannabutter can be refrigerated for up to 1 month or frozen for up to 1 year.

Fish ladder

Located on the Sorne in the Pichoux Gorge, Delémont, Switzerland (constructed in 2008).  Via.

Background information at NOAA and Wikipedia.

"If you're sick, come to the rally"

Nobody came.  I'm confident it must have been a prank.

"We already do this"

Social distancing in men's rooms has been going on for generations.  Via.

"Lemonade Machine" chain reaction video

Even more impressive than the "Unconventional dinner" one I posted earlier this week.  What do these people do? Move out of the house for a month while they set up and test the component parts?

Humor scrapbook, part X

This is the final installment of material from my old "humor" scrapbook.  The content varies from priceless to junky (especially the case with humor, which often doesn't age well), but there's no time to sort things out or curate the content (which may include material from the 1970s that would be "politically incorrect" nowadays).  This grouping includes some of my old favorites, including the continental drift cartoon.

The text on "scrapbook" pages can be very difficult to read. One possible workaround is to right-click on a page to open it in a new tab, then zoom the image on that tab.

20 April 2020

"Night of the Living (brain) Dead" (protesters in Ohio)

Title adapted from the post at the Pics subreddit (photo credit Joshua Bickel), where I found the following comments:
What is this?

They are crowded like flies in front of the closed doors of an Ohio federal building to protest the containment ordered by Governor Mike DeWine.

Darwin Awards red carpet event.

Why are there 2 people in Guy Fawkes masks?

They saw a movie, didn't understand it, and think they share the same values as Fawkes.
Spoiler alert: Being told to stay home to avoid catching or spreading a potentially fatal disease is not the same as religous prosecution.

Interesting bit of trivia - in the movie "V for Vendetta" the totalitarian government comes into power by releasing a bioweapon on it's own people and using the fallout and the peoples' fear to take over. Maybe they're referencing the film/graphic novel.

The woman on the left is Melissa Ackison, a Republican from Marysville running for the open District 26 seat.

If you're out of money go apply at a grocery store. Experience the shit pay, shit customers, and shit management of an essential worker. A few weeks of actual work for these clowns might change what they're protesting about.

Interviews just seem to be whiny middle age rednecks angry their lives are mildly inconvenienced because they can't get their [hair] roots done.

You missed one of best parts - the reflection of the man with hunched shoulders, back turned from the dumpster fire of humanity outside.

This whole thing is so bizarre since Trump is simultaneously on stage saying the country needs to be closed while at the same time yelling from the back of the crowd that the incompetent government needs to reopen the country.

Protesters in Texas

Via the vaxxhappened subreddit.

Protesting preppers

Lots of disrespect for "preppers" in the discussion thread at the PoliticalHumor subreddit.

18 April 2020

"After Long Silence" (W. B. Yeats, 1932)

Speech after long silence; it is right,
All other lovers being estranged or dead,
Unfriendly lamplight hid under its shade,
The curtains drawn upon unfriendly night,
That we descant and yet again descant
Upon the supreme theme of Art and Song:
Bodily decrepitude is wisdom; young
We loved each other and were ignorant.
Last night while sorting through old memorabilia I found an essay I had written about this poem during my senior year of college.   As a 22-year-old English major, I had dissected and parsed and analysed it, but now 50+ years later I find I have a much better understanding of its meaning (Yeats was 67 years old when he composed it).

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall..."

"... that wants it down..."
Smugglers sawed into new sections of President Trump’s border wall 18 times in the San Diego area during a single one-month span late last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection records obtained by The Washington Post via a Freedom of Information Act request...

The Post reported last November that smuggling crews armed with common battery-operated power tools — including reciprocating saws that retail for as little as $100 at home improvement stores — can cut through the bollards using inexpensive blades designed for slicing through metal and stone...

The CBP said the 18 incidents were a count of smuggling attempts that required the U.S. government to repair the structure and did not necessarily represent successful breaches that allowed narcotics or migrants to illegally enter the United States...

The CBP statement further diminished the significance of the breaching attempts, saying the “border wall system’s” technology — sensors, cameras and other hardware — is not yet fully operational in the San Diego area...

Trump repeatedly touted the bollard fencing as impenetrable in rallies and speeches, until The Post reported that smugglers were climbing the 30-foot structure with improvised ladders and hacking at the bollards with “recip saws” and other commercially available power tools. The president has since backed down on those claims...

“You can cut through anything, in all fairness,” Trump acknowledged in a speech 24 hours later, on Nov. 3, insisting the barrier was designed to be easily repaired...

Agents said the smugglers have learned to disguise the breaches with putty, potentially allowing them to return to the same breach and use it again and again until agents discover it.
You can read the rest of Mending Wall at the Poetry Foundation.

April is the cruelest month. So far.

Brightened and cropped for size from the original, via Miss Cellania.

17 April 2020

"Ghost crashes"

One of the vehicles in each crash has been digitally removed.  Unsettling to watch, to say the least.  I wonder if a similar technique has been applied to football tackles.

"Tribalism" becoming more intense on islands and vacation areas - updated

The word "tribe" can be defined to mean an extended kin group or clan with a common ancestor, or can also be described as a group with shared interests, lifestyles and habits. The proverb "birds of a feather flock together" describes homophily, the human tendency to form friendship networks with people of similar occupations, interests, and habits. Some tribes can be located in geographically proximate areas, like villages or bands, though telecommunications enables groups of people to form digital tribes using tools like social networking websites.
Two interesting articles today.  The first from the Washington Post: ‘Stay on the mainland’: Tensions grow as affluent city dwellers fearing coronavirus retreat to second homes":
In recent weeks, wealthy city dwellers hoping to escape the novel coronavirus have been fleeing to their second homes, exacerbating long-standing tensions between locals and summer residents. While those from out of town feel they have the right to use property they own and pay taxes on, year-round residents worry the new arrivals could be carrying the disease, and local hospitals aren’t equipped to handle an outbreak.

Last week, Facebook groups intended to connect Cape Cod residents devolved into embittered name-calling and demands to close the bridges to the mainland. Police in Block Island, R.I., reported receiving credible tips about residents threatening to destroy the island’s power transformers to discourage visitors. North Haven, a small island off the coast of Maine, voted to ban its own part-time residents...

Still, for city residents facing the prospect of an extended lockdown, escaping to Shelter Island in New York or Boothbay Harbor in Maine has obvious appeal. Some communities are turning to drastic measures to keep them away.
In North Carolina’s Outer Banks, both Dare and Currituck Counties have banned nonresidents from accessing their property. Exceptions will be made for “extreme circumstances” on a case-by-case basis, the Outer Banks Voice reported.
And this related article in The Lily:  "Nantucket has 3 ventilators. Residents say ‘stay away,’ but East Coast elites keep coming":
[Nantucket is] a “medical desert,” according to Nantucket Cottage Hospital CEO Gary Shaw. The first confirmed case of coronavirus on the island was announced Sunday, and more will likely follow. With 17,000 year-round residents, Shaw estimates the island could eventually have as many as 1,700 infected patients, 350 of whom would require hospitalization.
“Well I have 14 beds and three ventilators,” said Shaw. The hospital also has a shortage of doctors, and no intensive care units. “It’s straight math.”
Nantucket is a storied holiday destination for the East Coast elite, its population swelling to approximately 50,000 at the peak of the summer season. In the past two weeks, summer residents have streamed onto the island, retreating to second homes to wait out the virus, straining a medical system already incapable of treating coronavirus for the people who live there year-round...

It didn’t take long for the year-rounders to notice the new arrivals. The first sign of summer residents is always the license plates, said Chapa. Last weekend, she said, she started seeing BMWs from New York, Mercedes-Benzes from Connecticut. Then she drove by the airport and saw the line of private jets...

Now the big question is whether to restrict access to the ferries, preventing the summer residents from boarding the boats...

Year-rounders should remember the island’s history, Glidden says: Centuries ago, when white settlers first arrived on the island, they brought a virus that wiped out Native Americans.
“We’re sitting here talking here about invaders bringing viruses,” said Glidden. “We were those invaders.”
Update:  The Washington Post now reporting large coronavirus problems in western ski resort communities:
[Idaho's Wood River Valley] is a coronavirus hot spot, registering one of the highest infection rates per capita in the country. With 192 cases in a county of just 22,000 people — including two deaths — the share of the population testing positive is greater than even in New York City.

The impact has been dramatic: The small hospital in Ketchum, the region’s hub, has partially shut down after four of its seven emergency doctors were quarantined. Patients are being ferried to facilities hours away. The fire department is relying on fresh-faced volunteers, trained in a day, to drive ambulances...

Sun Valley — the region’s major ski resort — announced the next day that it was closing for the season, weeks earlier than planned. The day after, Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw did something he never thought he would: He wrote an open letter telling tourists to stay away.
Updated from March to present the situation in northern Minnesota:
Already many of these small-business operators have developed new ways to clean their cabins, sell bait from their shops and keep anglers safe distances from one another while launching boats — all because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But in the past month, some public officials Up North have said Twin Cities residents aren’t welcome in their backyards. They’re worried, they say, that their first responders and medical facilities can’t handle influxes of visitors who might get sick while fishing or otherwise vacationing...

Wherley points out that by their nature resort cabins are “socially distanced” from one another. Rather than connected by a common hallway, like motel and hotel rooms, resort cabins are divided by green grass and clean air...

Some resorts will ask guests to bring their own towels and bedding. Others might provide large plastic bags and ask guests to seal the resort’s bedding and towels before they leave. Everyone will expand cleaning and disinfecting protocols...

“Our members have been brainstorming all kinds of best practices to operate safely during the pandemic,” Carlson said. “Washing down rental boats. New rules for fish-cleaning houses. How to sell bait. Having guests report directly to cabins rather than to a lodge. All of these things are being considered. We’re confident our resorts can do this safely.”
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