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 100cc 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 -


If it doesn't move, you likely wouldn't see this creature while taking a walk... via



Brilliant match of the lyrics to the video content (the return from Tulsa).

And we all believe this:
This morning, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted on Fox News that Trump was actually happy with the sleepy, low energy crowd. “The president was not angry at all,” she said. “The president was quite energized. I was with him after the rally. It was a huge success. His speech got rave reviews. He was in good spirits on Marine One.” 

Those who love the song may prefer these Trump-free posts:

Radiohead's "Creep" animated.

"Creep" covered by Chrissie Hynde/The Pretenders

Alexis conquers the hurdles

And the "bardcore" version - hat tip to reader Leprae.

20 June 2020

Frogmouth (with baby)

It's a type of nocturnal birdVia.  Photo gallery at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Flashlight contains a block of concrete

Discussed at MildlyInteresting.


I think this is a "res ipsa loquitur" image.  Hat tip to reader David Shillcutt for bringing the Historyapolis [history of Minneapolis] source to my attention.

FYI re your mail delivery

Most readers probably know this, but the U.S. Postal Service websiteallows you to view online the pieces of mail that will be delivered to you later in the day.  To sign up for this service, go to USPS.com and click on "Informed Delivery."

This is free.  If/when the USPS is privatized and given to corporate America, there will probably be a "small fee" for this service.

Poor judgment

They are using baby oil rather than sunscreen.  Photo via the trashy subreddit.

19 June 2020

Divertimento #181 (gifs)

Trestle bridge burns down (informed comment in the thread)
Human fertility has been falling worldwide for 100 years
Restocking trout (note how some instinctively try to swim "upstream")
Academy Award nominee for Best Live Action Short [15 minutes]
The most popular TV series from 1951-2019
Animations can be modified and reused
Long eyelashes on a windy boat ride
Divers in India decide to clean the ocean floor of plastic
Instant karma for man who throws stuff at protestors

Nature and Science
The mud in some woodland puddles is deep
Square gears meshing
Coronavirus cases worldwide by country, February to May

Caterpillar of the archduke butterfly
Coyote and badger hanging out together

Impressive or clever
Quarry workers ride the rails to get back home (1935)
Andre the Giant's hand size
Near-world's record Rubik's cube solving (4 seconds!!)
Kid rides a tire down a hill - and back up!
You won't believe this pen
Box falls off truck, goes back in.  Twice.

Fails (trigger warning for trauma for several in this category)
Man tries to jump into water; yacht gets in the way
Paralyzed man pulled from his car by police officer

Sports and athleticism
Parkour fail
Rock climber Sofya Yokoyama pretends the floor is lava

Humorous or cheerful
Heavy equipment operator entertains some kids
Rescued miniature horse enjoys leg braces
Good clean fun at a party
There are worse jobs than weighing penguins

The embedded images are from a gallery of the artwork of Edmund Dulac posted at Messy Nessy Chic, via Neatorama.

18 June 2020

The magic happens every June

In the final week of May we found Monarch butterfly eggs on the milkweed in our garden.  Those eggs were brought into the house and kept in sterilized containers.  When the first instar caterpillars emerged, they were provided with milkweed leaves.  The photo above shows the result about three weeks later.

These "cats" are now full-size, and they have explored their container to find a location for pupation.  Fortunately their little feetsies have no difficulty grasping the sides of this container (repurposed from mouse cages surplused by the local university).

When they reach the removable cover they socially distance themselves, then spin a mat of silk (not visible except for that tiny white dot between the surface and the tip of the abdomen).  They then assume this "J" position and begin the truly magical transformation into a chrysalis.

The next morning four of the five had completed the process.  Inside that chrysalis various body elements are busily rearranging themselves and creating wondrous new structures.

More later...

If you find a blue thingy in your food...

... read the explanation and find out what to do at WhatIsThisThing.

The coronavirus seems to have an irony receptor

A Republican sheriff in Arizona who said he would not enforce the state's emergency coronavirus orders has come down with COVID-19. 
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb announced on Facebook on Wednesday that he had tested positive, likely from attending a campaign event on Saturday. He says he found out when he was called on Tuesday to meet with President Trump at the White House and was screened for the virus.  
"Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home," Lamb wrote. "This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job. Today, that risk is the COVID-19 virus. On Saturday, I held a campaign event, where it is likely I came into contact with an infected individual."
He is now self-quarantining for 14 days.  Via the Coronavirus subreddit.

Public approval of interracial marriage

So much change within my lifetime.
Blacks' approval of black-white marriage (96%) is now nearly universal, while whites' approval is 12 percentage points lower, at 84%. 
Approval of black-white marriage is higher among younger Americans, and lowest among those 65 and older. Americans living in the South are slightly below average in their approval, while approval is above average among those in the West. Similar patterns were evident in 2011. 
Census data indicate that black-white marriages in reality remain fairly rare -- although they have increased from 167,000 in 1980 to 558,000 in 2010, they still represent less than 1% of all married couples. The major shift in attitudes about such unions, however, is a telling indicator of the general shift in views of racial matters on many fronts in the U.S. over the last five decades.
More data and analysis at the Gallup website.

17 June 2020

"But grandma, what big teeth you have!"

(It's a dog holding a pinecone) (re the title)

Regarding the upcoming Bolton book

As reported by Vice:
The Trump administration just slapped John Bolton with a lawsuit to try and stop his tell-all book from coming out. 
The suit aims to block Bolton from publishing “The Room Where it Happened” next Tuesday, June 23, as scheduled, arguing that Bolton risks “compromising national security.” 
The fresh legal drama raises the bizarre spectacle of a sitting president overseeing a civil lawsuit against his own former national security advisor, over a book that reportedly describes Trump committing a series of improper acts with the leaders of multiple foreign countries. 
Now, Trump is on a legal rampage against the man he once appointed to help him make his most important national security decisions — while trying to get Bolton to keep his mouth shut about what he saw and heard at Trump’s elbow. 
Trump probably won’t be able to stop Bolton, thanks to the Constitution’s strong protections on free speech. But he still seems determined to try... 
The book portrays Trump’s White House as singularly obsessed with securing Trump’s reelection over all other priorities, and engaging in a wide variety of improper international deal-making with multiple foreign countries, according to the publisher’s description.
Requested from our library.  I'm #141 on the waiting list.

Regarding the Confederate flag

I have no idea whether this is true (or where the poorly-cropped image was taken from without attribution), and will take the post down if it the information is inaccurate.  There is some relevant discussion (especially re similar state flags) here.

This is probably a topic worth exploring, but I have too much on my plate right now.  And growing up in Minnesota I never learned any history of the Confederacy.

Pelosi trolls the Republicans

"Masks have become the norm inside the House of Representatives, where some politicians now embrace the novel coronavirus precaution with colorful odes to their home districts. But there are holdouts: A small group of Republican representatives who have consistently declined to wear face coverings in Congress
Now, as nine states hit record highs for infections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is tightening the rules. Late Tuesday, she asked committee chairs to require masks at all hearings — and authorized the sergeant at arms to bar anyone who refuses to cover their face, according to a senior aide familiar with the request. ...
Tuesday’s change comes after Pelosi requested new official guidelines from Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, based on the emerging scientific consensus that masks are key to slowing the spread of coronavirus. Monahan’s updated guidance, which he issued Tuesday, now requires face masks in the House for anyone meeting “in a limited enclosed space, such as a committee hearing room, for greater than 15 minutes.” 
That’s the rule that Pelosi has asked committee chairs to enforce. For now, wearing masks on the House floor or in most other areas of the Capitol are still only “strongly recommended” under Monahan’s guidelines."
More at the Washington Post.  Photo credit Reuters via The Daily Beast.
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