27 April 2021

Divertimento #186 (gifs)

Walking through the Rotherhithe tunnel is not recommended
"Shepherd jump" as a way to descend from heights
A child's monowheel (1927), passes through horse manure with ease
How the inside of a ceramic bowl is painted
Sorting eggs on a "chick farm" (not an "egg farm") (see discussion thread)
The American highways in numerical order
Riding down a Swiss funicular (scenic, tho the endless panning is annoying)

Nature and Science
How the epiglottis closes to guard the airway during deglutition
Sand from the Sahara on European snow
A modern aeolipile
Lavawatching in Iceland
This rattleback can only be spun counterclockwise.  Explained here.

Panda having fun in the snow
Bobcat vs. rattlesnake.  I didn't know rattlesnakes make squeaky noises
Crocodile vs. cheetah (crocodile wins)
Tagged blue whale dodging ships
Elephant uses stick to intimidate rhino
Peacock displaying glorious plumage
Australian plague of mice
An Argonaut (Paper Nautilus)
Saltwater crocodiles can swim 18 mph (Olympic humans 6 mph). "Maybe deep down I'm afraid of any apex predator that lived through the K-T extinction. Physically unchanged for a hundred million years, because it's the perfect killing machine. A half ton of cold-blooded fury, the bite force of 20,000 Newtons, and stomach acid so strong it can dissolve bones and hoofs."

Impressive or Clever
How to catch pirhanas
Sisyphus sand art table (ball controlled by magnet under table)
"Antigravity" lego set
Ceramic "puzzle pot" discussed at the via
Great Britain's inflatable army
A squirrel's cache of acorns
Elaborate joineries in a 100-year-old house
Netherlands first responder soldier using a jet suit for maritime operations
The Falkirk Wheel boat lift in Scotland. (info here)

Sports and Athleticism
School custodian aces half-court shot
How figure skaters train to spin
Softball shortstop makes incredible play tagging runner at second base
Full-rink hockey goal
Man windsurfs over an island
Jalen Suggs' buzzer-beater
Bowler converts a 7-10 from the INSIDE of the ten pin!

Falls and wtf
Thief doesn't get away. ("Fortunately the wall broke his fall")

Humorous or Cheerful
The "lawyer cat" Zoom filter mixup
I wonder if the snail does this on purpose just for fun
Lively manhole cover looks like it's having a happy day
Indescribable.  Found at Madame Jujujive's Everlasting Blort.
And E. coli Karen is also from there.

The embedded images for this gif-fest are selections from a gallery of photos of Irish Traveller children, photographed by Jamie Johnson and posted in The Guardian.  Description and commentary on the photos at the link.  Growing up Travelling: The Inside World of Irish Traveller Children is published by Kehrer

24 April 2021


A somewhat unusual view, because these insect-eating pitcher plants are typically shown with the trap door open.  At the via the discussion thread is, of course, rude.

Voter suppression technique analysed

As explained by the Tampa Bay Times:
Handwriting experts say no two signatures from one person are the same. It’s why Florida election officials for years have used all the signatures at their disposal — sometimes more than a dozen — when they authenticate a voter’s signature on a mail-in ballot.

DeSantis wants to rein-in that long-standing practice. Vote-by-mail signatures “must match the most recent signature on file” with the state Department of Elections, DeSantis declared in February. A bill moving through the Florida Senate would make that one-to-one match the law.

Some election officials say limiting signature samples could make it harder to authenticate the identities of those who vote by mail, perhaps leading to more rejected ballots. Signatures change over time, they say, and are often affected by the choice of pen, the writing surface, fatigue or a person’s health.

DeSantis’ own John Hancock has undergone a transformation during his time in government, as demonstrated by 16 of his signatures compiled by the Tampa Bay Times from publicly available sources between 2008 and now...

The most recent signature for many voters may be the one they used when they signed their driver’s licenses at a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office. That signature is often recorded on a digital pad with a stylus — not with a pen, like how a ballot is signed.
My most recent signature "on file" with the state is the one on my driver's license, which is only two years old - but looks quite different from my current signature.

Why there was no lockdown for "COVID one through 18"

This man was angry at the “Dirty, bastards, lying, scam, smoke and mirrors, COVID-19 freaks,” so on April 7 he posted a video on Facebook to that effect.  In the rant he opines
"You know, I guess I would ask you — because I’m addicted to truth, logic and common sense — and my common-sense meter would demand the answer to why weren’t we shut down for COVID one through 18? 

COVID-1 — and there was a COVID 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 — COVID one through 18 didn’t shut anything down but woah, COVID-19!"
Video at the link, and I agree with Snopes that he does not appear to be kidding.

This week he noted that he is infected, and is not an asymptomatic carrier:
",,, Nugent admitted that he had caught the disease and spent 10 days believing he was dying: "it was a clusterfuck." In the message on Facebook Live, Nugent declares that "I got the Chinese shit", pivoting elegantly from denialism to racism.

Describing his symptoms including a "stuffed-up head" and "body-aches", Nugent continued: "My god, what a pain in the a**. I literally could hardly crawl out of bed the last few days… So I was officially tested positive for Covid-19 today."
Karma is a bitch.

The easternmost point in the U.S. has a volcano

If you want to annoy people by showing off your useless knowledge of arcane facts garnered from TYWKIWDBI, challenge them to identify the easternmost point in the United States.  They are unlikely to choose Semisopochnoi Island, which is the technically correct one on the other side of the prime meridian.  Photo via.

21 April 2021

Polychaete worms from hydrothermal vents

Scanning EM credit to Nicolas Gayet, via Deep Sea News.  Here's another one, credit Philippe Crassous, via the Huffington Post:

Senior softball

Chevrolet adapted "Field of Dreams" for a commercial, and then West Metro Senior Softball in Minnesota adapted the Chevy commercial:

More about the West Metro players at their website and in this inspiring video:


"Correctamundo" is a neologism created by combining "correct" with "amundo" as an intensifier.  Related terms include "exactamundo" and "perfectamundo."

The word was famously used by Samuel L. Jackson's character Jules in Pulp Fiction, but that wasn't the original source; he was quoting a character who lived in Milwaukee...

Norway invests in infrastructure

Two awe-inspiring projects.  

20 April 2021

"Why the puck...?"

"Will you tell - yes or no - is my cousin in the coach?" screamed the plump young lady, stamping her stout black boot, in a momentary lull.

Yes, I was there, sure.

"And why the puck don't you let her out, you stupe, you?"

"Run down, Giblets, you never do nout without driving, and let Cousin Maud out.  You are very welcome to Bartram."
I was slogging my way through a disappointingly tedious read of Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh when I was gobsmacked to encounter this sentence.  A Google search of "why the puck" was contaminated by references to the physics of ice hockey, and after subtracting -hockey I could find no relevant information.

The novel is from the Victorian era, so I turned my attention to the OED.  "Puck/pook/pooka etc" as a noun typically refers to an evil malicious spirit, goblin, mischievous child, or the ice-hockey and bandy "ball" - none of which seems relevant to the usage here.  And I can't see it being related to "pukka" (genuine) as in "pukka sahib."  So I'm left without an explanation, unless this is a Bowlderisation of "why the fuck," since the f-word dates back centuries before the Victorians, and would be used here as an intensifier (or "vexation interrogative") for the question.  I would be delighted to see any informed commentary from readers.

I was disappointed not to find any descriptions in the book of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis since Le Fanu was said to be haunted by persistent dreams of a crumbling old mansion that was threatening to fall and crush him ("This unrelenting nightmare had become painful, and he often struggled and screamed in his sleep.")  He died with an expression of horror on his face and his personal doctor said "I feared this - that house fell at last."

I only skimmed the book, so I found only two other interesting word usages.  "Sometimes, when the curate calls, he has me up - for he's as religious as six, he is..." presumably means as religious as six normal people (?).  And "... we got at last into a picturesque dingle: the grey rocks peeped from among the ferns and wildflowers..." ("a deep dell or hollow, esp closely wooded").

18 April 2021

Berber tents - updated with video

I originally entitled this "Bedouin tents" (from the via), but reader Rich found and posted in the Comments this outstanding video from the Institute of Nomadic Architecture.

17 April 2021

Brazilian sand dunes

"In a land still soaked from the rainy season, a river stained with tannin from a nearby forest marbles the sand."

From a set of ten photos at National Geographic, via La Muse Verte.  I have previously written a post about the remarkable Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.

Reposted from ten years ago to add this recent photo of flooded sand dunes at this location, via.

Correlation between vaccination status and political affiliation

Predictable and self-explanatory.  Detailed discussion at The New York Times.

Thoughts about a "night out" in New York City

Excerpts from an essay in The Guardian
On Saturday night, for the first time in over a year, I hired a babysitter and took a cab downtown. I’d heard rumours about the parallel realities of different neighbourhoods in New York, divided along lines of age and proximity to bars. It was hard to imagine, however; uptown, in areas heavily populated with families, the streets were and still are mainly empty by 9pm. As I got out of the cab on 14th Street, it was like being dropped into Ayia Napa after spending a year in a monastery...

None of which, I have to say, prepared me for the vision of downtown on Saturday night. On the street, a quarter of the crowd was unmasked, a number that dropped to zero inside, save for servers. As we waited in line to get in, a strange split-screen reality took hold. Except for the mandatory temperature check at the door, everything looked precisely as it had two years earlier: large groups of people, hammered enough to be weaving from one side of the pavement to the other, drinking straight from the bottle and yelling at top volume. An ancient feeling resurfaced: wow, I’d forgotten how much I hate going out.

Yellow Umbrella stick insect

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

INDIANAPOLIS—In the hours following a violent rampage in Indiana in which a lone attacker killed eight individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Friday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Nebraska resident Andrew Clark, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
Title, photo, and text copied in toto from The Onion.  For my part, I'll add this list of recent mass shootings.  CNN considers an incident to be a mass shooting "if four or more people are shot, wounded, or killed, excluding the gunman."
April 15: Indianapolis
Eight people were killed and several others wounded in a mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx facility on Thursday night, Indianapolis.

April 15: Pensacola, Florida
At least six people were injured at an Escambia County apartment complex, as reported by CNN affiliate WEAR-TV. No suspects are in custody.

April 15: Washington, DC
Four people were shot, including a teenage girl, Thursday in Northeast Washington, DC, affiliate WRC reported.

April 13: Baltimore
Police said a dice game turned violent when two shooters opened fire on a group, injuring four, according to CNN affiliate WJZ-TV.

April 12: Chicago
Four people were shot, one fatally, and a fifth person was hit by a car in a shooting early Monday on the Eisenhower Expressway, affiliate WMAQ reported.

April 11: Wichita, Kansas
One person was killed and three others injured in a shooting at a house party at an East Wichita Airbnb, as reported by CNN affiliate KWCH.

April 11: Seattle
A toddler and three other people were injured when suspects fired into a business parking lot, according to CNN affiliate KIRO 7.

April 10: Memphis, Tennessee
One person was killed and three others were injured, including a mother and child, after gunfire was exchanged in a Memphis neighborhood, according to CNN affiliate WHBQ.

April 10: Koshkonong, Missouri
One person was killed and three others injured in a shooting at a convenience store, according to CNN affiliate KY3.

April 10: Waterbury, Connecticut
Police responded to calls of a weapons complaint and found blood trails and four injured victims, reported CNN affiliate WFSB.

April 10: Allendale, Michigan
An incident outside a house party resulted in four people being shot and one critically injured, according to CNN affiliate WWMT.

April 9: Fort Worth, Texas
One person was killed and at least five others injured when people in two vehicles shot at each other on a Fort Worth, Texas, freeway Friday night.

April 8: Bryan, Texas
A gunman killed one person and wounded at least five others -- four of them critically -- at a cabinet manufacturer, police said.

April 7: Rock Hill, South Carolina
A former NFL player killed six people -- including a prominent doctor, his wife and their two young grandchildren -- before killing himself.

April 7: Milwaukee
A 26-year-old man was charged with the shooting that killed two people and injured two others at a gas station, according to CNN affiliate WDJT.

April 6: Detroit
One person was killed and three others injured after gunfire erupted from a car, according to CNN affiliate WDIV.

April 5: Baltimore
Five victims were taken to a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.

April 4: Monroe, Louisiana
Police responded to Bobo's Bar, where they found six victims with gunshot wounds, according to CNN affiliate KNOE.

April 4: Birmingham, Alabama
An argument between two groups of men devolved into more than 30 shots fired at a park on Easter -- killing a woman and wounding five other people, including four children, police said.

April 4: Beaumont, Texas
A man arrived at a home, threatening several people with a firearm before shooting four victims, according to Beaumont Police.

April 3: Wilmington, North Carolina
Three people were killed and four others injured in a mass shooting at a house party, according to CNN affiliate WECT.

April 3: Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Two men were arrested and charged with attempted murder after five people were injured during a shooting outside an Alabama bar, police said.

April 3: Dallas
In what police said was an apparent murder-suicide plot, 21-year-old and 19-year-old brothers made a pact to kill their parents, sister and grandmother, according to CNN affiliate KLTV.

April 3: Quincy, Florida
Seven people were injured by gunfire near a nightclub after a fight broke out into gunshots, according to CNN affiliate WCTV.
And that's just for the first half of the month of AprilWhat the actual FUCK.  I'll close comments for this post; if you want to say something/do something, contact your local politicians.

15 April 2021

Note the spiral teeth in the lower jaw

This is Helicoprion.
Helicoprion is an extinct genus of shark-like eugeneodont* fish. Almost all fossil specimens are of spirally arranged clusters of the individuals' teeth, called "tooth whorls", which in life were embedded in the lower jaw. As with most extinct cartilaginous fish, the skeleton is mostly unknown.
And here is a fossil of the dentition:

More at the link, and some informed commentary at the via.  You learn something every day.

* Eu+gene+odont = true origin teeth

This U.S. President spoke English as a second language!

This is Martin Van Buren, eighth President of the United States.  Quite a few readers of TYWKIWDBI will be pleased to learn (or will already know) that he was born Maarten Van Buren and grew up speaking Dutch as his native language.
His father, Abraham Van Buren, was a descendant of Cornelis Maessen, a native of Buurmalsen, Netherlands who had emigrated to New Netherland in 1631 and purchased a plot of land on Manhattan Island... Van Buren received a basic education at the village schoolhouse, and briefly studied Latin at the Kinderhook Academy and at Washington Seminary in Claverack. Van Buren was raised speaking primarily Dutch, and learned English at school; as of 2021, he remains the only President whose first language was not English. Also during his childhood, Van Buren learned at his father's inn how to interact with people from varied ethnic, income, and societal groups, which he used to his advantage as a political organizer.
He was one of the founders of the Democratic Party.  More at the link.

Wear a mask. Or... (1918)

Image cropped from the original at the Mill Valley Public Library's Lucretia Little History Room (photographer Raymond Coyne), via.

Will your doctor be prescribing psychedelic drugs for you?

"Initially, drugs were classified as psychedelic on the basis of similar pharmacologic properties and clinical effects (e.g., LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and dimethyltryptamine). However, the classification has since been expanded to include psychoactive drugs that have different pharmacological targets, such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine [“ecstasy”]) and dissociatives (phencyclidine [“angel dust”] and ketamine). Encouraging results with respect to depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, and palliative care have been reported with these drugs over the past decade. Of interest, the therapeutic effects were tied to the subjective report of the user’s mystical experience. However, these studies had methodologic limitations (the lack of comparator treatments, functional unblinding, expectancy effects, short follow-up periods, imprecise dosing, and variability in treatment settings).

A series of studies by Carhart-Harris and colleagues, culminating in the phase 2, randomized trial, published in this issue of the Journal, that compared psilocybin (25 mg at baseline and week 3 plus daily placebo) with escitalopram (20 mg plus 1 mg of psilocybin daily) over a 6-week period, provide tantalizing evidence for the efficacy of psilocybin in the treatment of major depressive disorder. However, although the psilocybin-treated patients showed a pattern of improvement, the between-group differences did not reach statistical significance with respect to the primary outcome (change in score on the 16-item Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology–Self-Report), and the analyses of the numerous secondary outcomes were not adjusted for multiple comparisons. Heterogeneity among patients, who volunteered for the trial in response to advertisements, and uncertainty regarding the appropriate therapeutic dose range and frequency of administration of psilocybin may have influenced the results."

12 April 2021

Dye reveals presence of a rip current

Beach umbrella and people (dots) for scale.  More at The Washington Post.

Addendum:  video of beachgoers forming a human chain to rescue someone caught in a rip current.  Commentary at the link about why this technique is often not effective, and sometimes dangerous.

The boulder that trapped Aron Ralston's wrist

I remember being very impressed by Tom Brokaw's two-hour television documentary about Aron Ralston back in 2005, and somewhat disappointed by the subsequent 127 Hours movie.  It is certainly a remarkable cautionary tale, worth sharing with any of your friends/family who don't share with others their plans for hiking or travel.

A dead robin as a good-luck symbol

As reported by Collector's Weekly:
“The Victorians... liked to send out cards with dead birds on them, robins in particular, which related to ancient customs and legends. There’s a famous quotation from the Venerable Bede about a sparrow flying through the hall of a castle while the nobility is celebrating Christmas: The moment from when it enters until it flies out is very brief, a metaphor for how quickly our lives pass.” Apparently, killing a wren or robin was once a good-luck ritual performed in late December, and during the late 19th century, cards featuring the bodies of these birds were sent to offer good luck in the New Year."
Via Madame Jujujive's always-something-interesting Everlasting Blort.

See also: Piebald robin

Unutterably sad

"A Bolivian lake that was once an oasis of natural beauty full of thriving wildlife has become a waterless basin full of plastic waste. Lake Uru Uru in western Bolivia is covered in mountains of rubbish including plastic bottles and other man-made garbage for as far as the eye can see. The piles of rubbish are believed to have come from the nearby city of Oruro via the Roso Canal, where residents dump their waste. The lake's water is tinged black and brown because heavy metals such as cadmium, zinc, and arsenic have leached from nearby mines into the reservoir. Limber Sanchez, an ecologist with the regional Ecological Centre and Andean People (CEPA), said materials leached from the San Jose Mine had destroyed the purity of the water. He said: 'Alongside the plastic is also the impact the acidic water from mining that has come from the San Jose Mine that almost 365 days of the year empties directly into our Lake Uru Uru.' Sanchez said Uru Uru was hit with a deadly combination of urban contamination, mining contamination, and climate change, which as caused the lake to shrink."

10 April 2021

The St. Vincent volcanic eruption

The white band in the middle is water vapor, explained in the discussion thread at the via.

The physics of a cantilever bridge, illustrated

A historical demonstration in 1887 showing the weight of the central span of a bridge being transmitted to the banks through diamond shaped supports. The central "weight" is Kaichi Watanabe, one of the first Japanese engineers who came to study in the UK. Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker of Imperial College, who designed the Firth of Forth bridge, provide the supports.

The weight is carried through compression in the wood poles and tension in the arms. The heavy supports on each end prevent the people from tipping inward, and the symmetry of the design cancels out all horizontal components of the loads. The wikipedia page for this bridge and general cantilever bridges have some explanations as well.
Quote from the discussion thread at the via.

How long would it be before someone found your dead body?

In Norway it took nine years - for a man who died in his apartment.
The man, who was in his 60s, had been married more than once and also had children, according to the state broadcaster NRK.

But according to neighbours he kept himself to himself and when they didn’t see him they thought he had moved or been taken to an institution. He was found only when the caretaker requested police open the apartment so he could carry out maintenance work.

Police believe the man died in April 2011, based on a carton of milk and a letter that were found in his apartment. An autopsy showed he died of natural causes. His pension was stopped in 2018 when the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) could not get in touch with him but his bills continued to be paid automatically from his bank account.

God destroys a tree

Screencap from an impressive gif posted by the US National Weather Service in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  

09 April 2021

This is so accurate...

World's longest fingernails get trimmed

Martian skating rink

Photo from the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission, showing water ice inside Korolev, an impact crater on Mars.
Korolev crater is 82 kilometres across and found in the northern lowlands of Mars, just south of a large patch of dune-filled terrain that encircles part of the planet’s northern polar cap (known as Olympia Undae). It is an especially well-preserved example of a martian crater and is filled not by snow but ice, with its centre hosting a mound of water ice some 1.8 kilometres thick all year round.

The very deepest parts of Korolev crater, those containing ice, act as a natural cold trap: the air moving over the deposit of ice cools down and sinks, creating a layer of cold air that sits directly above the ice itself.
Mars' polar caps have a mixture of carbon dioxide ice and water ice, "which vary greatly in proportion to one another depending on the season."

Stuff like this continues to boggle my old man's mind, because when I was growing up, water was considered to be rare in the universe and one of the factors that made life on Earth possible and "unique."

This is a crinkle crankle wall - updated

"A crinkle crankle wall, also known as a crinkum crankum, serpentine, ribbon or wavy wall, is an unusual type of garden wall built in a serpentine pattern with alternating curves.

The crinkle crankle wall economizes on bricks, despite its sinuous configuration, because it can be made just one brick thin. If a wall this thin were to be made in a straight line, without buttresses, it would easily topple over. The alternate convex and concave curves in the wall provide stability and help it to resist lateral forces.
"Crinkle crankle" is an ablaut reduplication, defined as something with bends and turns, first attested in 1598 (though "crinkle" and "crankle" have somewhat longer histories). However, it was not until the 18th century that the term began to be applied to wavy walls. At that time these garden walls were usually aligned east-west, so that one side faced south to catch the warming sun and were historically used for growing fruit...
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) incorporated so-called serpentine walls into the architecture of the University of Virginia, which he founded. Flanking both sides of its landmark rotunda and extending down the length of the lawn are ten pavilions, each with its own walled garden separated by crinkle crankle walls. Although some authorities claim Jefferson invented this design, he was merely adapting a well-established English style of construction. A university document in his own hand shows how he calculated the savings and combined aesthetics with utility." [below, via

RelatedWorm fence (snake fence)

Reposted from last year to add this photo of an ancient Egyptian wall:

Another image of ancient Egyptian walls:

And this is a Dutch Slingermuur:

05 April 2021

Remembering the streetcars of Minneapolis

The fascinating photo above shows a streetcar in the town where I grew up (Excelsior, Minnesota).  Close examination of this photo [click for superhuge size] from the early 1900s reveals horse-drawn vehicles and a gloriously muddy street, crossed by boardwalks (note the sidewalks are also built of boards*).
A hun­dred years ago, you could get from Minneapolis to Excelsior as quick­ly as that 18-mile trip takes today at rush hour — about 45 min­utes — but in­stead of fum­ing in grid­lock, you'd breeze along, gaz­ing at fields and trees from a street­car.

From the late 1800s to the 1930s, streetcars were the pri­mary mode of trav­el with­in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but also east to Stillwater, Bayport and White Bear Lake and west to Lake Minnetonka.

In the late 19th cen­tu­ry, Thomas Low­ry, own­er of Twin City Rapid Transit, be­gan lay­ing tracks for e­lec­tric streetcars to re­place steam-pow­ered com­mut­er trains. At its peak, the com­pany had 524 miles of track and car­ried 200 mil­lion rid­ers each year — more than twice Metro Transit's total rid­er­ship in 2019.

Streetcars brought to­gether peo­ple of all socio­eco­no­mic class­es, said John Diers, co-au­thor with Aaron Isaacs of Twin Cities by Trol­ley: The Street­car Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul. "Ev­er­y­one rode the street­car — from mil­lion­aires to ho­bos," said Diers, a re­tired trans­it employee...

Street­car speeds could top 60 mph, about 20 mph fast­er than a Ford Mod­el T.

As auto­mo­bile mass pro­duc­tion grew in the 1920s and '30s, street­car rid­er­ship dwin­dled. The Lake Minnetonka line closed in 1932. Car sales boomed af­ter World War II, sub­urbs de­vel­oped, and the last street­car in the met­ro area ran in 1954.
Here is a lengthy video of these streetcars (I'm not sure why it autostarts in the middle - you'll need to back up using the video progress bar):

Readers living in or visiting Minnesota who are interested in this subject should consider visiting the Minnesota Streetcar Museum.

*Unrelated to the streetcar, but I'll mention that I used to subscribe to coinshooting and metal-detecting magazines and read that when boardwalk sidewalks were replaced with concrete ones in the 1950s-60s, those doing so found lots of old coins on the ground below the boards.  

The average length of an erect human penis

"Most men believe that the average length of an erect penis is greater than 6 inches (15.24 cm). This belief is due, in part, to several often-cited studies that relied on self-reported measurements, with means of about 6.2 inches (15.75 cm) for heterosexual men and even greater for gay men. These studies suffered from both volunteer bias and social desirability bias. In this review, the combined mean for 10 studies in which researchers took measurements of erect penises was 5.36 inches (13.61 cm; n = 1,629). For 21 studies in which researchers measured stretched penises, the mean was approximately 5.11 inches (12.98 cm; n = 13,719). Based on these studies, the average length of an erect penis is between 5.1 and 5.5 inches (12.95-13.97 cm), but after taking volunteer bias into account, it is probably toward the lower end of this range. Studies show that a majority of men wish they were larger, with some choosing penile lengthening surgery. These surgeries are considered by the American Urological Association to be risky. Most men seeking surgery have normal sized penises. Counseling with factual information about penis size might be effective in alleviating concerns for the majority of men who worry about having a small penis."
Abstract posted at the NIH's National Library of Medicine.

Strange landform on Mars

It's pretty obvious what it is.  The feature rises prominently above the Martian terrain.  Because it is located south of Ascraeus Mons - a large volcano within the Tharsis volcanic plateau on Mars - NASA scientists believe it was formed by volcanic processes.

But you know, and I know, that this is a geoglyph, proving that ancient Martians worshipped rubber duckies.

More information at NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

Introducing the Not Fucking Around Coalition

"Grandmaster Jay’s group, the NFAC, is a Black militia whose goals, other than to abjure Fucking Around, are obscure. It has a militarylike structure, fields an army of hundreds of heavily armed men and women, subscribes to esoteric racist doctrines, opposes Black Lives Matter, and follows a leader who thinks we live in a period of apocalyptic tribulation signaled by the movements of celestial bodies. Its modus operandi is to deploy a more fearsome Black militia wherever white militias dare to appear...

In Louisville, just two hours from where Jay and I sat, the NFAC first revealed the extent of its capabilities. On his YouTube channel, Jay posted a video of his troops in formation, and local news stations ran aerial shots. The men and women are ragtag and amateur, and their uniforms are not, well, uniform. One man has a Texas-flag patch Velcroed to his body armor; a woman taps the trigger guard of her AR-15 with a three-inch yellow fingernail. But my goodness, the weaponry—AR-15s galore, sniper rifles with scopes and bipods, high-capacity magazines, and enough “tactical” clothing to resupply an Army-surplus store. They look like World War II partisans meeting their clandestine commander for the first time. They stand in neat, spaced columns. I counted 28 rows of seven before I stopped counting. (By contrast, aerial photos suggest that the white militiamen present that day could have fit in a small school bus.) When Jay orders his people into motion, they go. 
So far, that is all they do. They do not bicker with other protesters, carry signs, or explain themselves. “We don’t come to sing,” Jay told a reporter from Newsweek. “We don’t come to chant.” Instead they stand, like a praetorian guard for some unseen emperor. In this laconic way, they distinguish themselves from two groups they loathe or deride: white militias (the camo-bedecked guys who show up at the same demonstrations and, sometimes, at the behest of the president, try to topple American democracy) and Black Lives Matter, whose activists tend toward nonviolence. “That movement accomplished nothing,” Jay told me, just “a lot of singing, a lot of hand-holding, a lot of sentiments and praise.”
Lots more information in a longread at The Atlantic.

The pain of a stonefish sting

"I interviewed a lady at St John's Ambulance about snakebites and her experience. She said that a surprising number of people are bitten in their house or while trying to kill the snake. She also said that many people don't even know they have been bitten - they've been on a camping trip and feel sick and think it's food poisoning, until the teeth marks are spotted days layer or it felt like a branch brushing against their leg. Even the guy in Hobart said that you'd think it would really hurt, but he barely felt it and it latched onto him and was pumping the venom in. My favourite quote was about stonefish, which are a tropical reef fish with spines on their back and are excruciatingly painful when trodden on and nothing, even opiates, will relieve the pain - if someone phones in and thinks it's a stonefish, if there isn't someone screaming in the background, it's not a stonefish."
A hat tip to reader Jim for the quote.  Photo via Ocean Conservancy.

04 April 2021


I don't have a photo of an Easter lily to share, but will offer this photo of crocus currently popping up through the leaf litter in the woods out back.  And this poem (hat tip to reader Marlys Hesch Sebasky):
"First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus
                            --Lilja Rogers

The Wife of Bath's Tale - animated

If Chaucer is certainly not one thing, then it’s innocent.  The Wife of Bath’s tale is full of political incorrectness – so much so that a lot of feminist literature has been written about it - both for and against. The Wife of Bath embodies antifeminist beliefs in some ways but in others she resists them – a contradiction which has made her character so interesting for so long.  So here is her story, one of a knight, but not the kind that you get in Hollywood movies.  Having committed a heinous crime he is sent out in to the world by Queen Guinevere to discover what it is that women truly desire.  See if you agree with what he discovers.

This animated version of the Wife of Bath’s Tale was made by Beryl Productions International in 1999 and was nominated for a huge amount of awards, including an Academy Award.  It won the Emmy and the British BAFTA for Best Animated Film.
Via Kuriositas.  Spark Notes version here.

Street scenes in Mumbai

Visually interesting.  You may need to turn subtitles on in order to appreciate the recitation of the poem.

Brooklyn Supreme

That was his name.  In 1930 he was "the biggest horse ever."
Brooklyn "Brookie" Supreme (April 12, 1928 – September 6, 1948) was a red roan Belgian stallion noted for his extreme size. Although disputed, the horse may be the world record holder for largest (but not tallest) horse and was designated the world's heaviest horse. He stood 19.2 hands (198 cm (6 ft 6 in)) tall and weighed 3,200 lb (1,451 kg) with a girth of 10 ft 2 in (3.10 m). His horseshoes required 30 in (76 cm) of iron. The horse was foaled on the Minneapolis, Minnesota farm of Earle Brown.
Reposted from 2018 to add some additional material, including this photo of a Percheron stallion -

This Percheron exhibiting color change over a 5-year time span:

This is not specific to Percherons. Horses with the grey gene are born with whatever their coat pattern/color would have been without the grey gene. The grey gene then causes depigmentation of that color over time. It's a short period of time and usually you can see that a horse is carrying the grey gene when they are foals (many foals will present grey "goggles").
And this photo of a horse exhibiting seasonal color change:

01 April 2021

In praise of oak trees

Oaks support more life-forms than any other North American tree genus, providing food, protection or both for birds to bears, as well as countless insects and spiders... With 90-plus North American species and about 435 worldwide, Quercus is the Northern Hemisphere’s largest tree genus, made up mostly of trees that are very large and very long-lived, two factors among several that help explain the oak’s power...

Oak trees support 897 caterpillar species in the United States. At Mr. Tallamy’s 10-acre property in southeastern Pennsylvania, he has recorded 511 — dwarfing the number supported by other native trees there... [but not many butterflies, AFAIK: Hairstreaks, Red-spotted Purples, and Duskywings.]

An oak can produce three million acorns in its lifetime — tons of protein, fat and carbohydrates — and a mature tree can drop as many as 700,000 leaves every year..  The resulting litter is habitat for beneficial organisms...

Oaks and jays evolved together about 60 million years ago, in what is now Southeast Asia. Jays grew so adapted to life alongside oaks that a small hook at the tip of their bill “is designed to rip open an acorn husk,” Mr. Tallamy writes.  The bird’s expanded esophagus (a gular pouch) can hold up to five acorns — each one buried in a different spot.
I didn't know about the mutualism of blue jays and oaks.  You learn something every day.

Gene transfer from plant to insect documented.

I would have scoffed at the idea, but the report is in Cell:
Plants protect themselves with a vast array of toxic secondary metabolites, yet most plants serve as food for insects. The evolutionary processes that allow herbivorous insects to resist plant defenses remain largely unknown. The whitefly Bemisia tabaci is a cosmopolitan, highly polyphagous agricultural pest that vectors several serious plant pathogenic viruses and is an excellent model to probe the molecular mechanisms involved in overcoming plant defenses. Here, we show that, through an exceptional horizontal gene transfer event, the whitefly has acquired the plant-derived phenolic glucoside malonyltransferase gene BtPMaT1. This gene enables whiteflies to neutralize phenolic glucosides. This was confirmed by genetically transforming tomato plants to produce small interfering RNAs that silence BtPMaT1, thus impairing the whiteflies’ detoxification ability. These findings reveal an evolutionary scenario whereby herbivores harness the genetic toolkit of their host plants to develop resistance to plant defenses and how this can be exploited for crop protection.
Good discussion at Nature.  I wonder if Monarchs similarly adopted enzymes from milkweeds to enable the caterpillars to detoxify the cardenolides in the plant.  This article in Science (discussed in NYT) suggests that Monarchs did this via mutation, rather than by horizontal gene transfer.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...