30 January 2021

Divertimento #185 (gifs)

Note: all the embedded images zoom to wallpaper size with a click, and then to super-huge mega size with a second click.   Explore...

"Glass glue" (resin) repairs cracked windows
Why Target is such a successful company
One way to cook an egg
Maliwawa figures (Australian aboriginal art)
I'm guessing this is Norway
Dr. Fauci explains what it was like during the Trump administration
Prohibition-era bottles found hidden in the walls of a house
How a swaging tool works (i.e. for handles of roof rakes!)
Optical illusion: these figures are not moving

Nature and Science
Microburst (Lake Millstat, Austria)
Cougar stalks a hiker for 6 minutes (understandably NSFW language)
The Red Asian Arowana, the world's most expensive fish
Velvety malachite
Tree canopy exhibiting "crown shyness"
Demonstration that hot air rises (reverse video for fun, proves nothing)

Impressive size of an anteater
Trailer for Cemetery - movie about the death of an elephant
Slow-motion video of hand-feeding birds.
Crocodiles can gallop
Blanket octopus (click for fullscreen on this one)

Impressive or clever
Deep fake artificial intelligence face generation [none of those are real people]
Crafting a tree with wire art
New FX technology from Industrial Light and Magic
Impressive cabinetry
Coordinated movement (and here) (discussed here)
Artist at work (some explanation in the discussion thread)

Sports and athleticism
Young kid hits pitched ball and foul ball from other park at the same time

Fails and wtf
Employee uses lighter to open bag in cotton warehouse
Why does anyone leave their car in Neutral instead of Park?????

Humorous or cheerful
Little girl rescues a shark
Good sportsmanship in youth basketball

Credit for these amazing images to Anton Balazh, who created them using data from NASA.  Yes, yes, we know that the vertical scale is grossly exaggerated (a normal relief map of the Earth would be as smooth as a pool ball), but distortions like these provide useful visual information regarding land use, patterns of human habitation etc.

Ehlers Danlos syndrome in a cat

Toby, who lives with his owners Chris Lardner and Georgina Price in Gloucestershire,  has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome that affects his skin, making it saggy, giving him a permanently grumpy look.

Chris and Georgina didn’t let his condition put them off, and adopted Toby and his best friend Quinton, after they were both rescued from a hoarder's house by the RSPCA...

'After a difficult start in life we are just glad we found them when we did. We can prevent Toby from further harm and ease any potential problems his EDS may bring.'
Re the potential problems of Ehlers-Danlos, see the Wikipedia entry.  Lots of photos at the first link.  I frankly didn't know that Ehlers-Danlos occurred in animals, but apparently it's also seen in dogs -

You learn something every day.

World record matryoshka

"The largest set of Russian dolls is a 51-piece set hand-painted by Youlia Bereznitskaia (Russia). The largest measures 1 ft 9.25 in (53.97 cm) in height, the smallest 0.125 in (0.31 cm) in height. The set was completed on 25 April 2003. When all 51 pieces are lined up together touching, they measure 11 ft 2.25 in length. To break this record both the number of dolls in the set and the height of the tallest must be broken."
Image via.  I wonder if she painted each doll's face and the art on the torso, or does the latter represent an applique of commercially printed art?  And each of them must be incredibly thin.

29 January 2021

Inter-generational conflict

Excerpts from commentary by John Authers at Bloomberg:
"It is no longer acceptable to insult people on the basis of their race, sex, or sexuality, which is as it should be. However, it now appears to be OK to attack people because of their age. Look through WallStreetBets traffic and disparaging references to boomers come thick and fast. This incident is an opportunity to get one over on a generation who have houses, guaranteed pensions, subsidized healthcare, and paid off their college bills decades ago.

The demonization of boomers is growing alarming. One WallStreetBets post with 27,000 likes starts “All you ****king Boomers enjoyed the golden age of America...” If that seems reasonable in a way, just imagine replacing the word “Boomers” with a racial term. The level of inter-generational distrust is terrifying. 

While personal animus isn’t justified, the same cannot be said for the notion that there is generational injustice. Plainly, the Baby Boomers had a great deal, and the Millennials and those who follow them have a terrible one. (Full disclosure: I’m in Generation X and my children are in Generation Z). Generational conflict is set to be a critical fissure for the decades ahead, particularly as the number of retirees swells relative to the number in the working population

In particular, there is the intractable issue of pensions. Many defined-benefit plans appear to be in real danger of failing to meet their guarantees, at least in the U.S.; defined-contribution plans the world over appear likely to leave people with inadequate income in retirement. Does society do everything it can to honor commitments to retirees (and thereby widen the generational gap still further)? Or are we on course for some reckoning in which older people surrender some of the benefits they have been expecting? This question is central to the next book club selection — The Great Demographic Reversal by Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan — which we will be discussing in a live blog on the terminal on Feb. 3."

Insight into the GameStop phenomenon

A "black swan" event in the stock market has moved from the financial pages/websites to front-page news on major media because it carries overtones about the proper conduct of capital markets.  Here is some informed commentary from an email newsletter by John Authers from Bloomberg (boldface added):

When this week started, I had a long “to do” list of topics to cover.

Difficulties in distributing Covid-19 vaccine and the race against virus mutations;

Inflation risks, and the chances of a bond market “tantrum”;

The dollar and the overwhelming consensus that it is due a further fall;

The chances that post-Brexit Britain might now be a “buy” despite everything;

Fourth-quarter earnings season and what it portends for the economic recovery;

The oil market (the price of Brent crude has trebled in nine months);

The chances for a re-made U.S.-Chinese relationship;

Yet another political crisis in Italy and its implications for the euro.

These are all important issues. If you have thoughts about any of them, drop me a line.

Beyond that, you’ll have to discuss these topics amongst yourselves because I’m writing a fourth newsletter in a row about a small video-game retailer in the U.S., which was worth less than $1 billion at the beginning of last month. And yes, GameStop Corp. really is the most important issue for markets.

... I won’t waste time in recounting what is now a familiar narrative. But to bring you up to date, this is the performance of GameStop’s share price over the last month:

It’s hard to believe this won’t become a pivotal event in the history of finance. Here are some of the biggest questions it raises:

Libertarianism vs Paternalism

This is an eternal debate. Freedom means the freedom to mess things up. But governments have a responsibility to citizens, and companies have a responsibility to clients, to reduce the risks that the actions of some will harm others. Driving is the most popular analogy. Paternalism demands that manufacturers fit cars with seat-belts, but libertarianism permits people to take the risk of not wearing them.

There is a line to be drawn. Within markets, it is best to set a few simple rules, enforce them, and leave everyone as free as possible. That way the invisible hand can work its magic. But if the invisible hand really thinks that GameStop is worth $25 billion, something has gone wrong. The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering what to do, and there is plainly a regulatory issue here. Meanwhile, the decision by Robinhood Markets Inc., the main broker used by the Redditors, not to accept trades in GameStop on Thursday has already prompted class-action lawsuits from clients. For arguments against paternalism, look at the comments below the piece by my colleague Conor Sen arguing that Robinhood did the right thing. 

As day traders are the Davids in this drama, up against hedge-fund Goliaths, their supporters in Congress include progressive Democrats such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. The politics will be unpredictable. But a few points seem clear:

Regulators must respond with equity. Any suggestion that they are defending hedge funds against retail investors would be disastrous. Anything that clamps down on retail trading will have to be balanced by a serious attempt to stamp out “naked shorts” — the practice of selling a stock you don’t have, which led to the imbroglio at GameStop;

The issue of whether Robinhood and others really engaged in “gamification” — making trading more like a game, and helping to get people addicted to it — needs to be addressed. I think they have a case to answer. 

The need to protect people from losing money they cannot afford to lose should remain paramount. Redditors complain it would be unfair to stop them from taking risks that are allowed for hedge funds. There’s a good reason for this, though. Hedge funds are restricted to wealthy people who can afford losses, while others deserve more protection. I am sure that opinion will make me unpopular.

There is no libertarian objection to stopping behavior that endangers others. Libertarians can agree that nobody should be allowed to drive a car when drunk. Distorted markets, and particularly asset bubbles, lead to malinvestment and wasted capital, and ultimately to lost jobs. The Federal Reserve is adamant that it cannot and should not attempt to identify and deflate bubbles before they grow too big. Incidents like this suggest that they need to be more active. 

His column continues with thoughts about the Future of Shareholder Capitalism and Accoutability for the Global Financial Crisis.  I'm going to blog separately some of his thoughts on Intergenerational Conflict.

Addendum: "This is a good 13-minute video from a Twitch livestream, in which a finance expert, Alexis Goldstein, explains to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) how Robinhood makes its money." (via BoingBoing)

Very interesting that the GameStop phenomenon is not being driven just by small-investors on Reddit, but also by major financial companies that may be riding or front-riding these extraordinary stock moves.

28 January 2021

Bald eagles' nest

Not a real one in the photo - but still impressive.  This one was created by the exhibits staff at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

According to Guiness World Records, "The largest bird's nest was built by a pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and possibly their successors, near St Petersburg, Florida, USA and measured 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in) wide and 6 m (20 ft) deep. It was examined in 1963 and was estimated to weigh more than two tonnes (4,409 lb)."

Trending names for children in Minnesota

"Each year, the Social Security Administration releases data showing the popularity of first names throughout the country, state-by-state. And each year, the Star Tribune analyzes that data to determine which names are most popular in Minnesota, both currently and over time."
Clearly the name Stanley is in a long-term decline:

At the link you can type in any name to check its popularity.  And today I learned that Emersyn, Remi, and Saylor are a girls' names.  (why?  I must have missed something in pop culture)


In my file cabinet I have a thick folder documenting and quantitating cacography (poor spelling) among medical students.  This humorous chalkboard reminded me of that material, which I'll need to dig out some day and compile for a blog post.  So I'll just leave this here for now.  Sent to me, source unknown.

Five full-extension punches per SECOND

A Guiness World Record for most punches in a minute (334), set by a young Russian.  Via Neatorama.

Count the masks

Patrons in a bar in Tampa Bay celebrating the Buccaneers' recent win over the Green Bay Packers.   I can count 3 masks (plus two used as chin supports) among the 30+ faces visible.  This in a city which recently had 20% coronavirus positivity rate among residents.   *sigh*

25 January 2021

Fortunate choice on the transection orientation

Screencaps from a Facebook video showing a transected Brazilian agate.   Via everywhere.

Recruitment survey

My local community has requested feedback from the public: 
"In preparation for the upcoming recruitment and selection process, the Mayor and Common Council are asking for input from residents, city staff, and community and business leaders regarding the traits, characteristics, and skills they feel are most important in selecting the next City Administrator."
I have to be careful not to mock them for this effort, but I truly don't understand how a survey like this can produce meaningful guidance to the committee.  How does one place relative ranks on calmness, integrity, optimism, flexibility etc.  And frankly, "practices active listening" sounds like a checkbox on a fifth-grade report card.

I think it's wonderful that they seek guidance from the community, but I honestly can't see how something like this survey can be helpful.  Very likely my background doesn't provide relevant experience in personnel management.

Shiny mirror balls as tools for movie special effects

I'm always fascinated by special effects in movies.  This video explains in 8 minutes how some remarkable renderings are achieved.  Fascinating.  But I still don't understand...

Humor for English majors

Queen Elizabeth was visiting sick children in a Scottish hospital, and after performing her planned duties, she wandered off to other parts of the hospital. Walking into an unidentified ward, she went up to a patient in bed and asked him how he was doing. He replied:
"O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly played in tune....."
Finding the response somewhat inappropriate she wished him good day and moved down the ward to a room where another man was sitting quietly. In response to her inquiry, he began singing:
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to min' ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne ?"
Somewhat baffled by this sequence of events she found a third room, where her greeting was met with:
"Wee, sleekit, cowrin', tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie ...."
She gave up, and left the ward. On her way out, she encountered the head nurse. "Is this the psychiatric ward?" she asked.

"No, your majesty," the nurse replied. "It's......the Burns unit."
Reposted because I just discovered that January 25 is Burns Night.

Jellied moose nose

A recipe from Atlas Obscura's Gastro Obscura feature:
"The moose’s long, bulbous snout is still considered a delicacy among indigenous communities. Jellied moose nose is similar to European head cheese, trapping cuts of moose nose within a gelatinized broth...

A moose’s nose contains both white meat (from the bulb of the nose) and dark meat (from around the bones). The fur must be removed prior to cooking, either by being singed off over an open fire, peeled off after the nose has been boiled, or simply skinning the nose. Chefs then slice the nose and simmer it with onions, garlic, and an array of other spices, which may include cinnamon, cloves, allspice, or mustard seeds. Meat from other parts of the moose’s head, such as the ears and lips, may be added to the mix. Once the concoction has cooled down, the cook lays the pieces of meat in a loaf pan, douses them with broth, and places the mixture in the refrigerator so the broth can solidify. The resulting jelly is served like a loaf of bread and eaten in slices.

... be sure to wash the nose thoroughly before cooking."


Excellent name for an eyeless goldfish.

Saying goodbye

23 January 2021

Vineyards of the Canary Islands

Volcanic eruptions are terrible for vineyards, but only briefly. Once the lava cools, the volcanic soil left behind creates delicious wine that is lean, racy, and mineral: Santorini’s Assyrtiko, Nerello Mascalese from the slopes of Sicily’s Mount Etna, Northern Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. Vines planted by Spanish and Portuguese settlers made the Canaries famous: In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Sir Toby Belch speaks of “a cup of canary.” Then their popularity waned, and for 200 years, the trade winds brought no trade.

“And a good thing, too,” says Jonatan García Lima of Suertes del Marqués on Tenerife, the Canaries’ largest island. No trade meant vines could grow and adapt in peace, and the result is a remarkable range of varieties that, if not precisely indigenous (Listán Blanco is also Palomino, the grape of sherry, while Listán Prieto is better known as Mission, the earliest European variety planted in the Americas), are so different from their other incarnations as to be almost unrecognizable.

Those vineyards are starkly beautiful but surpassingly strange: covered in black volcanic ash, each vine planted in an individual depression, shielded from that chill wind by its own semi-circular wall of ink-dark rock. Driving through La Geria, the island’s principal wine region, is like crossing a giant muffin tray with vines where the muffins should be. 
More info at Food & Wine.

Edit icon now missing from blogspot posts - updated

It's always something.  Now something has happened at Google's Blogspot hosting service that has made the little icon for editing existing posts disappear.   There used to be something to click down in this corner that allowed the blogger to make updates, changes etc.  That disappeared several days ago.

I'm not the only one to notice this.  The problem is present while using either Chrome or Firefox.  There is one workaround that involves adding an extension to one's browser, but I'm reluctant to do this.  For the present I need to go to my dashboard of 17,000 posts, search for the one I want, and open the post there to edit.

Seeking comments and input from other bloggers.  Regular readers can ignore this.

Addendum: And this evening I find I can't delete comments from old posts, even via the dashboard. ???

Addendum #2:  It's back -

I don't understand these things.  It's some kind of magic.

Wisconsin Republicans want to revoke the current mask mandate - updated

"Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature will vote next week on a resolution that would end the statewide mask mandate designed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.  Twenty-seven Republican lawmakers signed on to the resolution introduced Thursday...

[Governor] Evers first issued a statewide mask requirement in July and has extended the order three times, most recently on Tuesday.

“From day one, I’ve been ready to repeal Governor Evers’ unconstitutional edicts,” Bradley, a freshman lawmaker, said in a statement. “The governor has grossly overstepped his authority. I am hopeful that the Senate will vote for this resolution on Tuesday, and I encourage Wisconsinites to reach out to their legislators to support this effort.”

Republicans control the Senate 20-12 and the Assembly 60-38."
5,600 deaths in the state thus far.

"Republicans in the Assembly have paused efforts to eliminate Gov. Tony Evers' statewide mask mandate following reports that doing so could cut the state off from more than $49 million in federal food assistance for low-income families this month...

If the emergency order is repealed, Wisconsin could lose more than $49.3 million in FoodShare benefits, according to a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The memo, which was requested by Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, states that federal COVID-19 aid passed last year provides assistance to households participating in food assistance programs as long as the state has an existing emergency health order in place. The state Department of Health Services estimates that more than 242,000 Wisconsin households will receive such emergency benefits this month..."

A lot of people feel this way with the new presidency

21 January 2021


Jargon* is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular communicative context and may not be well understood outside that context. The context is usually a particular occupation (that is, a certain trade, profession, vernacular or academic field), but any ingroup can have jargon. The main trait that distinguishes jargon from the rest of a language is special vocabulary—including some words specific to it and often different senses or meanings of words, that outgroups would tend to take in another sense... 
The word "jargon" came to mind yesterday evening as I was finishing a final reread to the book illustrated above.  It's a mid-1990s textbook explaining geophysical processes to students of archaeology.  Way TMI for the general reader, but a delight for the armchair enthusiast - extensively illustrated and lucidly explained.  Here are some sample pages:

The page above explains that when you are dealing with erosional terraces, the older artifacts will be on the higher terraces - the reverse of the intuitive assumption that older items are deeper down.

In the evolution of a rockshelter, debris typically falls onto the scree on the slope, potentially burying important older material.

Above, a graph of world sea levels for the time period of North American occupation.  The low levels during glaciation allowed early man to traverse Beringia, and the subsequent rise will have put original shoreline occupation sites under many meters of seawater on the Pacific Coast.

And my favorite from this group.  A schematic explaining "cryoturbation" and why recurrent frosts heave objects from the ground to the surface.  My uncles used to walk the farm fields every spring to clear newly emergent rocks from the surface before it could be cultivated.

But back to the title of this post.  Every technical field has a "jargon" that simplifies and speeds communication.  Geoarchaeology uses a boatload of terms, most of which were new to me.  The book explained these in clear understandable terms...
Equant, prolate, imbrication, evaporite, tuff, sapropel, diastem, eolian, lacustrine, colluvial, facies, pedology, eluviation, illuviation, chroma, mollic, umbric, histic, plaggen, ochric, albic, argillic, spodic, cambic, duripan, fragipan, petrogypsic, haplargid, paleustol, calciorthid, gleyed, paoleosol, time transgressive, unconformable contacts, floralturbation, cryoturbation, crystalburbation, synchronic, bajada, barchan, ventifact, turbidites, colluvium, ablation till, eboulis, spelothem, breccia, talus cone, chenier, strandplain, prograding coastline, palimpsest sediment, frost pull, solifluction, gelifluction, tree-throw, kratovina, manuport
... and now that I've finished reading it, I'm already rapidly forgetting the definitions.  But they were interesting to read and learn.

If anyone is interested in my copy of this book, I have listed it on eBay.

* The French word is believed to have been derived from the Latin word gaggire, meaning "to chatter", which was used to describe speech that the listener did not understand. The word may also come from Old French jargon meaning "chatter of birds".  The first use of the word dates back to the usage of the word in The Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. Chaucer referred to jargon as the utterance of birds or sounds resembling birds.

20 January 2021

How butterflies survive the impact of raindrops

An interesting brief video.  Insect wings (and other natural objects such as bird feathers and plant leaves) are superhydrophobic.
In analyzing the film, they found that when a drop hits the surface, it ripples and spreads. A nanoscale wax layer repels the water, while larger microscale bumps on the surface creates holes in the spreading raindrop.

“Consider the micro-bumps as needles,” Jung said. If one dropped a balloon onto these needles, he said, “then this balloon would break into smaller pieces. So the same thing happens as the raindrop hits and spreads.”

This shattering action reduces the amount of time the drop is in contact with the surface, which limits momentum and lowers the impact force on a delicate wing or leaf. It also reduces heat transfer from a cold drop. This is important because the muscles of an insect wing, for example, need to be warm enough to fly.
Reference: “How a Raindrop Gets Shattered on Biological Surfaces” by Seungho Kim, Zixuan Wu, Ehsan Esmaili, Jason J. Dombroskie and Sunghwan Jung, 8 June 2020, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The high-speed film clip at the end of the video showing  the swallowtail launching is absolutely beautiful.  I'll just add that the butterfly depicted earlier in the video appears to be one of my all-time favorites - an Olympia Marble.  Here's one I was able to photograph back in 2014:


As reported by the BBC:
The rare condition likely afflicting the Sarker family is called adermatoglyphia. It first became widely known in 2007 when Peter Itin, a Swiss dermatologist, was contacted by a woman in the country in her late twenties who was having trouble entering the US. Her face matched the photograph on her passport, but customs officers were not able to record any fingerprints. Because she didn't have any.

Upon examination, Professor Itin found the woman and eight members of her family had the same strange condition - flat finger pads and a reduced number of sweat glands in the hands. Working with another dermatologist, Eli Sprecher, and graduate student Janna Nousbeck, Professor Itin looked at the DNA of 16 members of the family - seven with fingerprints and nine without.

"Isolated cases are very rare, and no more than a few families are documented," Prof Itin told the BBC... Prof Itin dubbed it "immigration delay disease", after his first patient's trouble getting into the US, and the name stuck...

Amal and Apu recently got a new kind of national ID card being issued by the Bangladeshi government, after presenting a medical certificate. The card uses other biometric data too - retina scan and facial recognition.

But they still can't buy a Sim card or obtain a driver's licence, and obtaining a passport is a long and drawn out process.
In discussions of this syndrome, comments are sometimes made that the afflicted family members would be excellent thieves.  But the counterpart of that is that they would be arrested on suspicion for every crime in which no fingerprints were found.

A record of Halley's Comet (164 BCE)

The Babylonians kept astronomical diaries from about the 7th century BCE onward.  This clay cuneiform tablet in the British Museum records the appearance and passing of the comet from 22-28 September, 164 BCE.  Via.

19 January 2021

Looking forward to the "internet of things" ??

"The Internet of things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet."
Be careful what you wish for:
In October of last year, security researchers found that the manufacturer of an Internet of Things chastity cage*—a sex toy that users put around their penis to prevent erections that is used in the BDSM community and can be unlocked remotely—had left an API exposed, giving malicious hackers a chance to take control of the devices. That's exactly what happened, according to a security researcher who obtained screenshots of conversations between the hacker and several victims, and according to victims interviewed by Motherboard.   

A victim who asked to be identified only as Robert said that he received a message from a hacker demanding a payment of 0.02 Bitcoin (around $750 today) to unlock the device. He realized his cage was definitely "locked," and he "could not gain access to it." 
More details at Vice.  Image from Amazon.  NSFW images at the chastity cage link.

Just pretend it's ramen......

... but with more protein.
Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency...

The insect’s main components are protein, fat and fibre, offering a potentially sustainable and low carbon-emission source of food for the future. When dried, the maggot-like insect is said to taste a lot like peanuts...

Dried yellow mealworms can be eaten as an aperitif and come in a range of flavours. Alternatively, the insect can be turned into a flour-type ingredient for a dessert.

Thanks to a recipe provided by Jiminis edible insect company, a yellow mealworm cupcake is easy to knock up with three tablespoons of cocoa, 60g of margarine, an egg, a tablespoon of low-fat yoghurt, 30g of flour and 25g of powdered mealworm – with some whole ones left for later.

Add a little water to the cocoa and mix that into the melted butter, egg, yoghurt and some baking powder. Add in some freshly crushed mealworms. Distribute the mix between moulds and cook for 20 minutes. Glaze the top of the freshly baked cupcakes with some icing sugar – and add the spare mealworms on top for decoration.
More at The Guardian.

18 January 2021

Three kidneys

Instead of the usual two kidneys seen in a typical person, the man had three: a normal-looking kidney on his left side and two fused kidneys located near the pelvis, the report said.

Usually, each kidney is connected to the bladder through a single duct called a ureter. In the man's case, one of the pelvis kidneys was directly connected to the bladder via a ureter. However, the ureter of the other pelvis kidney joined the ureter of the normal, left-side kidney before it entered the bladder.

Having three kidneys is rare, with fewer than 100 cases reported in the medical literature, according to a 2013 report of a similar case published in The Internet Journal of Radiology. The condition is thought to arise during embryonic development, when a structure that typically forms a single kidney splits in two.
The supernumerary kidney has a horseshoe component, described in detail here.

The National Debt

"Economists agree that we needed massive deficit spending during the COVID-19 crisis to ward off an economic cataclysm, but federal finances under Trump had become dire even before the pandemic. That happened even though the economy was booming and unemployment was at historically low levels. By the Trump administration’s own description, the pre-pandemic national debt level was already a “crisis” and a “grave threat.”

The combination of Trump’s 2017 tax cut and the lack of any serious spending restraint helped both the deficit and the debt soar. So when the once-in-a-lifetime viral disaster slammed our country and we threw more than $3 trillion into COVID-19-related stimulus, there was no longer any margin for error.

Our national debt has reached immense levels relative to our economy, nearly as high as it was at the end of World War II. But unlike 75 years ago, the massive financial overhang from Medicare and Social Security will make it dramatically more difficult to dig ourselves out of the debt ditch...

Falling deeper into the red is the opposite of what Trump, the self-styled “King of Debt,” said would happen if he became president. In a March 31, 2016, interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of The Washington Post, Trump said he could pay down the national debt, then about $19 trillion, “over a period of eight years” by renegotiating trade deals and spurring economic growth.

After he took office, Trump predicted that economic growth created by the 2017 tax cut, combined with the proceeds from the tariffs he imposed on a wide range of goods from numerous countries, would help eliminate the budget deficit and let the U.S. begin to pay down its debt. On July 27, 2018, he told Sean Hannity of Fox News: “We have $21 trillion in debt. When this [the 2017 tax cut] really kicks in, we’ll start paying off that debt like it’s water.”..

The tariffs did bring in additional revenue. In fiscal 2019, they netted about $71 billion, up about $36 billion from President Barack Obama’s last year in office. But although $36 billion is a lot of money, it’s less than 1/750th of the national debt. That $36 billion could have covered a bit more than three weeks of interest on the national debt — that is, had Trump not unilaterally decided to send a chunk of the tariff revenue to farmers affected by his trade wars. Businesses that struggled as a result of the tariffs also paid fewer taxes, offsetting some of the increased tariff revenue.

Normally, this is where we’d give you Trump’s version of events. But we couldn’t get anyone to give us Trump’s side. Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, referred us to the Office of Management and Budget, which is a branch of the White House...

OMB didn’t respond to our requests."
More discussion at ProPublica.

Testing a football helmet in 1912

There was no damage.  To the building.  Via.

Nationwide decline in other respiratory pathogens

An interesting but predictable side effect of the coronavirus epidemic is a decline in the prevalence of other respiratory pathogens.
Veteran virus trackers say they are chronicling something never before seen — the suppression of virtually every common respiratory and gastrointestinal virus besides the novel coronavirus. They theorize that is largely due to global shutdowns, mask-wearing and a host of other health protocols aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

These other viruses — including influenza A, influenza B, parainfluenza, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus — all appear to be circulating at or near levels lower than ever previously measured. The same is true for the respiratory bacteria that cause pertussis, better known as whooping cough, and pneumonia...

A year ago at this time, nearly 60 percent of samples taken from patients with flu-like symptoms came back positive for one of the pathogens. But beginning in March of this year, when the coronavirus prompted shutdowns and school closings, the percent of samples positive for any other pathogen took a Grand Canyon-worthy plunge, bottoming out in May at about 6 percent. Even now, at the time of year when respiratory infections typically begin to peak, just 18 percent of samples are positive for any respiratory virus or bacteria...
This decline in prevalence extends beyond the respiratory viruses to include intestinal enteroviruses that are preventable by handwashing.

But there is a downside:
As welcome as the absence of these other viruses is during a pandemic, epidemiologists say they see a potentially dangerous consequence after coronavirus cases eventually decline — a rebound that could be frightfully large given the relaxation of social distancing and lowered immunity to other pathogens.

“The best analogy is to a forest fire,” said Bryan Grenfell, an epidemiologist and population biologist at Princeton. “For the fire to spread, it needs to have unburned wood. For epidemics to spread, they require people who haven’t previously been infected. So if people don’t get infected this year by these viruses, they likely will at some point later on.”..

It’s a real possibility that we’re going to see increased outbreaks of the endemic infections,” said Ben Lopman, an epidemiologist in Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “If people haven’t gotten infected this year, because of actions taken to prevent covid-19, there’s a real risk of bigger outbreaks when we go back to normal.”

Besides larger-than-normal numbers of endemic infections, Lopman added, some of those infections could be more severe than normal, again because of waning immunity.
More at The Washington Post and chart from BioFire.  It's important not to oversimplify these matters; viral epidemiology is a complex science, and it's easy for people to come to erroneous decisions when they cherry-pick data to support prior assumptions.

When your lunch plans change from a PBJ to ham and cheese

I love the saltiness of sourdough bread, and I understand that it has become very popular during the covid quarantine.  Perhaps home-baking enthusiasts can prevent this, but store-bought loaves sometimes have gigantic air pockets.  I've tried weighing the loaves with my hands at the store, but the difference between aerated bread and pure air is too subtle for me to detect.

So today it was ham and cheese.  And even at that, it broke in half.

17 January 2021

No treats if you tell anyone...

Credit: Sarah Andersen's Instagram, via the Miss Cellania humor blog.  

Flight tracker?

Not really.  Answer below the fold:

A timeline for Midwestern Monarchs

This is not the season for butterflies here up north, but as J.M. Barrie said, "God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December."  So let's do this now.

The screencap comes from an online presentation this past year by Dr. Karen Oberhauser, director of the University of Wisconsin's arboretum.  The chart at the left shows cumulative data from a project done under the auspices of the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project.  Citizen scientists monitored a couple hundred milkweed plants at the arboretum, recording the presence of eggs, then larvae in their various stages, and finally the pupae (chrysalises).  

The results exactly mirror the experience we have seen in our suburban home (which also has a hundred+ milkweeds).  The Monarchs arrive from down south in May, at about the same time the milkweeds are emerging.  We find some eggs on our plants then, but the real burst occurs in July, when the adults from the first batch have mated and oviposited.  There is probably a third "peak" embedded within the decline of the second one, but the overall pattern is quite predictable.  There is more data that can be derived from this chart re mortality and predation, but the overall pattern is I think worth sharing.


This very official-looking document arrived in my mail several days ago.  I knew instinctively that it was not from Medicare, but I also know that it's going to fool a lot of elderly people.  It is almost certainly totally legal, but the disclaimer "This is an advertisement and a solicitation of insurance" is written in about a 6-point font.

I am not anti-business or opposed to clever selling techniques.  My father was a classic traveling salesman with a four-state route, visiting electric utilities to try to sell them transformers.  He was creative in his inducements and rewards to customers, but never to my knowledge deceptive.  I find this kind of crap abhorrent.

I'm jealous of this hair

Mostly I'm jealous of just having hair, but that coloring is awesome.  It looks like the "structural" color of beetle wings etc, but was apparently created with dyes.  Comments at Reddit take note of the practical problems associated with maintaining this artwork. 

Posted for a certain "foxy" lady, who now seems to be sporting some blue color. 
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