28 June 2021

Thomas Edison listened with his teeth

"Thomas Alva Edison listened with his teeth. The inventor of the phonograph was completely deaf in one ear and could barely hear in the other, the result of a mysterious affliction in his childhood. To appreciate a delicate tune emanating from a music player or piano, he would chomp into the wood and absorb the sound waves into his skull. From there they would pass through the cochlea and into the auditory nerve, which would ferry the melody to his prodigious brain. Edison’s approach to music consumption had curious side effects, beyond the visible bite marks all over his phonographs. He couldn’t hear at the highest frequencies, couldn’t stand vocal vibrato, and declared Mozart’s music an affront to melody. But his inner ear was so sensitive that he could dazzle sound engineers by pinpointing subtle flaws in their recordings, such as a squeaky flute key among the woodwinds."
More information in a story at The Atlantic.  Credit for the photo of Edison's wood-frame-mounted phonograph to Ron E. at Tech Talk

Serious concerns re "Big Tech"

In 2018, an Irish technologist named Dylan Curran downloaded the information Google had collected about him. All in all, Curran found, the corporation had gathered 5.5 GB of data on his life, or the equivalent of more than three million Word documents.

In an article for the Guardian, Curran wrote that within this trove he found
"every Google Ad I’ve ever viewed or clicked on, every app I’ve ever launched or used and when I did it, every website I’ve ever visited and what time I did it. They also have every image I’ve ever searched for and saved, every location I’ve ever searched for or clicked on, every news article I’ve ever searched for or read, and every single Google search I’ve made since 2009. And . . . every YouTube video I’ve ever searched for or viewed, since 2008."
In addition, Curran discovered that Google keeps a detailed record of what events he attends and when he arrives, what photos he takes and when he takes them, what exercises he does and when he does them. And it has kept every email he has ever sent or received, including those he has deleted.
- from The Big Tech Extortion Racket at Harper's.  Lots of interesting info on Amazon and Facebook as well.

This "super soaker" squirts champagne

Rich people have $500 toys like this.  Because they can.
Beautiful and stylish decoration, to display any magnum bottle of champagne on a bar or dining table, or can be used as a centerpiece.
The champagne gun was designed to be used with magnum sized bottles (1.5 liters). Although most champagne bottles will fit your gun, there are a few exceptions; Specialty brands magnum (1.5 liters) bottles such as Ace of Spades, Dom Perignon, Cristal, Ruinart will not fit the Champagne Gun.

Pic via Uncrate


Our neighborhood solar farm

I live under that yellow arrow and drive past this array of solar panels every time I run errands to Target.  I'm delighted to see this technology being implemented in our community ("Fitchburg Mayor Aaron Richardson said the project will allow the city to meet 40% of its operational needs with renewable energy, surpassing the goal of 25% by 2025.")  And there is a proposal to build one 15X this large in a more rural part of the county.

But there is at least one local Grinch/Luddite who wrote in to the paper: 
"My goodness. Where or when was the outrage, if not at least objection, to the construction and loss of green space to such a huge area -- right in our backyard... Who will want to live, shop or even work next to 160 acres of giant, hot, shiny, some might say ugly, green-space eating technology?"

It's easy to steal people's identities

On the road, they sometimes found it easier to steal the identities of real people than to invent fictional ones. Cox would put ads in the paper—Home Loans Available. Good/Bad Credit, No Problem. It was amazing how people would just give up information about themselves to a stranger on the phone. Cox would also pretend to be a Red Cross worker taking a survey and steal the identities of homeless people. He’d use the information he gathered to get copies of people’s voter-registration cards, birth certificates, and Social Security cards, which he then used to obtain driver’s licenses and passports, so he could take out home loans in their names. Cox convinced himself that he wasn’t really hurting anyone. Wasn’t this exactly why title insurance existed? In the early 2000s, mortgage fraud was the fastest-growing form of white-collar crime, and it was easy to pretend that everyone involved was a greedy player in a greedy game.
-- from an article in The Atlantic about a professional scammer.

Impressively dense crossword

Eight 15-letter entries, and only 24 black squares in a 15x15 grid.  Awesome.


Apparently a honey buzzard.  Credit as per the watermark, via.

But it's not really blank...

Everyone has seen pages like this, typically on reports from financial institutions or health-care firms.  It seems to be a cover-your-ass adaptation to the fear that some recipients will be distressed to confront a blank page, or that a malefactor will insert extraneous material in a report.  Perhaps some reader can offer insight into the rationale.

Addendum:  within minutes of my posting this, a reader provided the link for a Wikipedia entry on Intentionally blank page.
Intentionally blank pages are usually the result of printing conventions and techniques (allow chapters to start on odd-numbered pages, allow for additions later etc).  In standardized tests it prevents subjects from proceeding to subsequent sections.  Other considerations for sheet music.  Most of these examples don't justify the addition of a sentence to declare blankness.  Maybe the part re classified document page checks is the best in that regard.
If you've read this far in the post, then it will be worth a couple seconds of your time to peek at the This Page Intentionally Left Blank Project.

"The earliest noise complaint in history"

The 4,000-year-old Epic of Gilgamesh recounts how one of the gods, unable to sleep through humanity’s racket and presumably a little cranky, opts “to exterminate mankind.” 
- from an article in The Atlantic about the noise pollution associated with chillers at data centers.

26 June 2021

Miscellaneous humor

I felt a little bad laughing at this one:

There's lots more at Miss Cellania;  just keep scrolling back.

You may think you're cool...

... but your pet bird doesn't accompany you on motorcycle trips.  Via Miss Cellania

25 June 2021

A blue frog and a blue lizard

The frog appears to be Cruziohyla craspedopus, which a Google Image search shows as being either bluish or greenish (via).  The lizard is described at its via as being a collared lizard.

Blue is a very unusual pigment in the animal kingdom; AFAIK, most blues are the result of structural alterations rather than pigments.  These photos could be somewhat manipulated, or perhaps the specimens are variant morphs of their species.  ?? 

4th century BC bowl, and modern nomad archer

World Nomad Games are an international sport competition dedicated to ethnic sports practiced in Central Asia. The first three World Nomad Games were held in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan; however, Turkey has been announced as the host of the fourth games.
Home page for the WNG.  The activities include this board game (and two others). dog racing, arm wrestling, archery, tug-of-war, hunting with eagles and hawks, and lots of horse-based events.

Photo via.

Milkweed leaves "trenched" and "skeletonized" - updated x2

Reposted from 2019 to add the photo above - my best yet at depicting the early feeding pattern of the first instar of a Monarch caterpillar.  Contrary to what I stated below when I started this post in 2011, the first instar does not begin by cutting the hole.  The first step - after eating its eggshell - is to eat the trichomes (the "little hairs" on the undersurface of the leaf).   The above photo, taken a few days ago, captures that moment in time.

With that clarification you can now proceed with the rest of this old post; I'm not planning to re-edit all the old text.

[2011 text] If you're walking past milkweed plants, sometimes you can see a tiny hole in the leaf.  Turn the leaf over, and you may see droplets of the sticky latex sap oozing from the cut area.

In this case, the perpetrator is not present.  This is the feeding pattern of the first generation (first instar) larva of the Monarch butterfly.  The female Monarch lays her egg (typically one to a plant) by grasping the leaf edge with her feet and stretching her abdomen underneath.  When the larva hatches, it begins eating the leaf by cutting that circle, which breaks the flow of latex to the tissue in the center.  The little instar can then continue eating that part of the leaf without being physically overwhelmed by the flow.

Here's one at work.  First they eat the little hairs inside the circle, then they finish the contents of the circle, then (usually as a larger second instar) head out to work on the leaf edge itself.

When we see leaves like the one at the top, it typically means the caterpillar has fallen victim to a bird or to the ants who patrol the plant tending their aphids.

There's one other caterpillar that has evolved to favor the highly toxic milkweed leaves as a food source - the "milkweed tussock moth."

Unlike the monarch cats, these are gregarious creatures, emerging from large clusters of eggs laid by the moth.  They can tolerate the cardiac glycosides in the latex, but also don't want to be overwhelmed by the flow, so while they are little, instead of cutting the vein as the Monarch does, they eat between the veins.  The result looks like this leaf I photographed yesterday -

Totally "skeletonized" but with the arborized veins still intact.  In this case they had moved on to a different leaf; as they get larger they are capable of consuming the entire leaf and defoliating the plant.  Milkweeds have large taproots and tolerate the process quite well, especially because these are late-summer caterpillars and the plant is already in blossom or seed.

Addendum July 30:  Here's what leaves look like that have been consumed by the next generation of tussock moth instars.  It's not as delicate.  The generation after this one is capable of stripping a milkweed right down to the stem.

Reposted from 2011 to add this photo and comments:

The image above shows why we bring Monarch eggs into the house and screen porch.  The milkweed plant in the photo is next to our driveway.  We have never seen a caterpillar on it.  Each of those holes represents a location where a Monarch deposited an egg, the first instar emerged and began feeding, perhaps molted once... and then disappeared.  At our location that probably represents predation (or accidental dislodgement) by ants.  The survival percentage may be higher in more rural locations, but it is still high; consider that a female Monarch can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime, and sustaining the population requires that 2 survive, then do the math.

When we find eggs on milkweed leaves, we pluck the leaf and bring it inside away from predators.  The containers require cleaning and changing, but the cats are quite content to pupate there.

This (September) morning we had a couple eclose; we released them from the south side of the house because they have a long trip to get to Mexico before the weather turns cold (though they can travel a hundred miles in a day).

Zipperless pants for discreet peeing. And the converse.

Chickfly makes activewear pants and leggings designed to facilitate discrete urination by women in the great outdoors.  Reviewed at Outside:
Before I began trying the pants outside, though, I practiced their capabilities over the toilet and in the shower. You can open the fly, which is made from overlapping pieces of fabric, from the back (giving you enough space to go number two, but a little less privacy) or from the front (good for number one and more private, but creating a smaller opening). My success rate was high—I only peed on myself once—but I was grateful for the practice of stretching the fly and angling my legs and hands correctly, which would have been difficult to do outdoors for the first time. 

To wipe before returning to your outdoor shenanigans, you might need extra practice holding back the fabric layers with one hand while the other wields a pee rag or wad of toilet paper. This technique worked best for me when I used one hand to open them from the front. The pants, which are made of a super-soft, legging-like material, are intended to be worn without underwear, and they are very comfortable and functional commando (you can even wear a pad on the upper layer). It is possible to wear undergarments if you prefer: you’ll just have to pull them aside along with the pant layers. 

Once you’ve practiced using the fly, the process is the same as any time you pee outdoors—find a comfortable place, squat, and go—but takes half the time. And the major win here is for privacy. You don’t need to pull the pants all the way down to go, and if you’re opening them from the front, your back and sides will be fully covered. When you’re done, the stretchy fabric springs back into place so you never feel exposed for long. Granted, you’re still peeing outside, so privacy is relative, but you avoid the hassle of hoisting your pants back up and mooning other outdoor patrons. 
More at the link.  And in the most converse item possible, there is another company that sells jeans designed to look like you did pee yourself:

Its pants bear what appears to be a wet spot front and center, as if to scream to the wondering world: Had to go, didn't have time. 

"Wet look, dry feel," the company promises. "Our jeans are designed to mimic the aesthetic of urinary incontinence without the commonly associated discomfort."

"Believe it or not, there are people who actually do enjoy the 'wet look,'" the company's creator tells me via email, sharing this photo to prove the point. "It's unclear to us if this is meant as a sexual fetish or for pure shock value, though it doesn't really matter either way." 
More at cnet.

Remembering there is a skin microbiome

Most people nowadays understand that there is a gut microbiome that is crucial to good health.  An article in The Atlantic reminds us that there is also a skin microbiome.
Even water alone, especially hot water, slowly strips away the oils in the outer layers of skin that help preserve moisture—and the drier and more porous someone’s skin, the more susceptible it is to irritants and allergens... 

Skotnicki believes that this is one way overwashing prompts eczema to flare in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease... the incidence of immune-related skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis has risen in the developed world, while acne is as pernicious as ever, despite the constant stream of expensive new medications and unguents sold to address it.

An early jolt of public recognition that our skin was thick with them came in 2014, when researchers scraped the faces of a small group of volunteers in North Carolina and found DNA evidence of microscopic mites called Demodex burrowed in their pores. The detection of the colorless arachnids made headlines nationwide, eliciting a widespread cry along the lines of Get these things off of me this instant. But although an abnormally high density of the half-millimeter bugs has been linked to rosacea, they’re almost surely serving some useful purposes. Michelle Trautwein, an endowed chair of dipterology (the study of flies) at the California Academy of Sciences and a co-author of the study, told me that Demodex may feed off our dead skin cells—making them the most “natural” exfoliants of all.

An out-of-balance skin microbiome isn’t just the result of too much soap and scrubbing. We’ve also exposed ourselves to preservatives with antimicrobial properties. Prime among them are parabens, which have been used for the better part of a century to extend the shelf life of many hygiene and beauty products—deodorant, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo—as well as packaged foods...

Researchers at NIAID tried spraying eczema patients’ inner elbows with the aforementioned Roseomonas mucosa. After six weeks of twice-weekly applications, symptoms such as redness and itching diminished in most of the patients, according to Ian Myles, the lead investigator. Some also reported needing fewer topical steroids even after the treatment stopped...

At a fundamental level, spending time in the natural world, starting from early childhood, seems to be one of the best ways to build and maintain a healthy skin biome.
More at the link.

Corneal transplantation

Corneal transplant is one of the most common transplant procedures... approximately 100,000 procedures are performed worldwide each year...

The first cornea transplant was performed in 1905 by Eduard Zirm (Olomouc Eye Clinic, now Czech Republic), making it one of the first types of transplant surgery successfully performed. Another pioneer of the operation was Ramón Castroviejo. Russian eye surgeon Vladimir Filatov's attempts at transplanting cornea started with the first try in 1912 and were continued, gradually improving until on 6 May 1931 he successfully grafted a patient using corneal tissue from a deceased person...

Tudor Thomas, a clinical teacher for the Welsh National School of Medicine, conceived the idea of a donor system for corneal grafts and an eye bank was established in East Grinstead in 1955.
More at Wikipedia.  When you are done using your corneas, please consider donating them to someone else.  Photo via.

The 1963 Latino All-Star baseball game

"One week after the L.A. Dodgers swept the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, a group of baseball’s greatest players got together to play one final game at the storied Polo Grounds before it was torn down the following year.

Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Minnie Miñoso and Juan Marichal. Felipe Alou, Vic Power, Zoilo Versailles and Tony Oliva. They're but a few of the legends who suited up that day..."
Details at MLB.com.

22 June 2021


"The ruins of the13th century Castle Coeffin built on the former site of a Viking fortress, located in Scotland."  Via.

The topography of Africa

Via (vertical scale exaggerated, of course). 

There are 38 mountain ranges in Africa; I was only able to name two.

Can you see the camouflage?

No??  Look again, and if you need help, see my Comment.   Via.

Shoulda bought plywood...

In early 2020, I decided to invest more money in Target as a pandemic-resistant stock.  And I stayed with it, which is fine.  But... I should have sold my TGT and moved the funds into a few truckloads of plywood.  Last week I was talking to a neighbor who is a building contractor.  He told me that sheets of plywood were costing him $75 vs. $25 about a year ago.

I found confirmation at Politifact
"...there are indications that the price of plywood has risen in the range of 252%.  Shawn Church, editor of Random Lengths, which publishes price data on the wood products industry, gave us figures for 23/32-inch plywood produced in the Pacific Northwest and the South. 

The price in the Northwest for Fir 23/32-inch sheathing for the first week of April was $1,610 per thousand square feet, up 287% from $560 a year earlier.

In the South, the price of that panel was $1,500 per thousand square feet, up 230% from $455 one year ago..."
- and at an Oregon news site:
The director of purchasing and finance with Renaissance Homes, Marc Hartman, said last January it cost him about $8 for a sheet of plywood. Today, that price is closer to the mid-$40 range. In some cases, it’s costing $20,000-$25,000 dollars or more to build a home with just the high cost of plywood alone.
- and Woodworking Network says thieves are now targeting truckloads of lumber:
Two more lumber robberies have been reported in late May.  The first took place at Timber Creek Community, a neighborhood currently being built in Fort Myers, Florida. 144 sheets of plywood - valued at around $10,000 - were stolen on May 21.,, The second incident took place at a construction site in Denver, where thieves reportedly stole $5,000 worth of lumber.  “Seven months ago, that was probably worth $1,500 and they probably wouldn’t want to steal it..." 
Note there is also a rising risk for landowners who have woodlots.

Interesting spiderweb pattern

Typical pattern for Paramatachia spiders.
"Other spiders in the same family (Desidae) make similar webs, like Badumna and Matachia. All can be found in Australia/NZ; the [lower] picture was supposedly taken in Tasmania."  Via.
Top photo credit M. Hedin.

I tried to compose some humorous comment about zippers and flies - but couldn't make anything work.

20 June 2021

Sculpture at an arboretum

 At the Morton Arboretum in Illinois.

Homemade amaretto

My favorite beverage to sip while reading late at night is amaretto - an Italian almond-flavored liqueur.  This week I discovered that it is possible to make one's own amaretto at home, and the process is so simple that any idiot can do it.


1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ounce almond extract
1 ounce vanilla extract
2 cups vodka 
In a saucepan, combine the water, white sugar, and brown sugar and warm over medium heat. Let the mixture reach a boil and wait until the sugar has fully dissolved.
Once dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about ten minutes.
Pour in the almond extract, vanilla extract, and vodka and stir well.
Pour the mixture into a sealed bottle and let steep for at a least a few days before using.

It's not clear to me why the ingredients need to steep for several days, since there are no leaves, bits of fruit, or body parts soaking in the mixture.  I couldn't wait, and sampled my concoction on day two.  To my palate it tasted the same as commercial Amaretto Disaronno, for a fraction of the price.


A startling image, via Reddit.

Hey, buddy - that's a nonconsensual kiss

"Very little ammunition is required for a culture war these days, so long as your troops are primed to mobilise at the drop of a blog. Julie Tremaine and Katie Dowd, two writers for the online newspaper SFGate, discovered this last month. Their review of the revamped Snow White ride at Disneyland was generally positive, but queried a new scene showing the prince giving Snow White the all-important “true love’s kiss”.

A kiss he gives to her without her consent, while she’s asleep, which cannot possibly be true love if only one person knows it’s happening,” they wrote. “It’s hard to understand why the Disneyland of 2021 would choose to add a scene with such old-fashioned ideas of what a man is allowed to do to a woman.”
Discussion of the current brouhaha at The Guardian, which ran a related story last month about potentially offensive stereotypes in the Disney catalogue.

Addendum:  An interesting comment from reader Charles - "In some of the earliest versions she is raped while she is unconscious..."
" One day, while a king is walking by, one of his falcons flies into the house. The king knocks, hoping to be let in by someone, but no one answers and he decides to climb in with a ladder. He finds Talia alive but unconscious, and "...gathers the first fruits of love." Afterwards, he leaves her in the bed and goes back to his kingdom. Though Talia is unconscious, she gives birth to twins — one of whom keeps sucking her fingers. Talia awakens because the twin has sucked out the flax that was stuck deep in Talia's finger. When she wakes up, she discovers that she is a mother and has no idea what happened to her."

19 June 2021

Midnight sun at the South Pole

"A multiple-exposure photograph taken every hour from 1:30 pm on December 8, 1965, to 10:10 am on December 9, 1965, showing the sun in its orbit above the South Pole, Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station © Georg Gerster/Panos Pictures."

Photo from an interesting article in Harper's Magazine about collecting meteorites on the Antarctic ice (see photo below). 

"Photograph of a meteorite foot-search showing flags that mark the locations of collected specimens. Courtesy ANSMET/Nancy L. Chabot"

"Posted erotic drawings of bigfoot"

Reported behaviors of Republican legislators who were elected or reelected in the last mid-term elections:

Posted erotic drawings of bigfoot

Voted to make it legal to kill hibernating wolves and bears

Bragged about shooting a bear while the animal was asleep

Suggested using wolves to reduce the homeless population

Suggested that if women can have abortions then men should be able to rape women

Said Jewish people could have prevented the Holocaust if they owned guns

Claimed assault weapons needn’t be banned because they are too big to be used to commit crimes

Called the ban on executive bonuses in the AIG bailout a “tar baby”

Advocated for canceling Martin Luther King Jr. Day and weekends

Opposed retirement

Claimed that AIDS is spread by way of toilet seats

Claimed to have received forgiveness from God for sleeping with a patient

Brought a snowball to the House floor as proof that climate change isn’t real

Joked from the floor of a state legislature about killing puppies with a baseball bat

Shot a neighbor’s dog with a handgun

Source: Harper's Magazine, January 2019.

18 June 2021

When you need an excuse to slap someone...

Similar cartoons at Real Life Adventures.

Congressman asks if the U.S. Forest Service could alter the orbits of the moon - or the earth...

This man was elected to Congress to represent voters in the state of Texas.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, suggested at a congressional hearing that climate change could be combatted by altering the orbit of the moon and asked a U.S. Forest Service official whether there was any way the agency could do it.

Gohmert made the comments Tuesday during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on four bills as he was questioning Jennifer Eberlien, an associate deputy chief of the Forest Service.

"I understand, from what's been testified to the Forest Service and the BLM, you want very much to work on the issue of climate change," Gohmert said, referring to the Bureau of Land Management.

"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."
In the video at NBC News you can listen to him actually propound this insane question.

This question is not just a reflection of massive stupidity about planetary engineering.  It is an outgrowth of theories emphasized during the Trump administration that climate change is a natural phenomenon rather than a man-made catastrophe.  The rebuttal by NASA re the time frame of cosmic planetary cycles is discussed at the link.

Jeff Bezos' rocket "looks a little odd"

Video of the gigglefest by the broadcast reporters is available at BoingBoing.

Thrift store treasure

"A painting by David Bowie purchased last summer at a donation centre in rural Ontario for $5 is expected to fetch upward of $12,000 at auction this coming week. The semi-abstract portrait by the Changes singer is a small acrylic and computer collage on canvas, dated 1997, with Bowie’s signature on the reverse.

The painting is titled DHead XLVI. It was found in a Goodwill shop in South River, Ont., a village some three hours north of Toronto. The identity of the portrait subject is unknown, and the name of the painting’s owner has not been revealed.

08 June 2021


I'm going to leave cyberspace for at least a week - probably two - to see what's happening in real life.

Hair receiver, ratts, ratting, and Victorian hair art

I saw a group of these in a local auction and had to look up some information:
Although rare today, the hair receiver was a common fixture on the dressing tables of women from Victorian times to the early decades of the 20th century. Its purpose was to save hair culled from the hairbrush and comb, which were used vigorously on a daily basis. The hair could then be stuffed into pincushions or pillows. Since hair was not washed as often as it is today, oils were frequently used to add scent and shine to hair. The residual oil made the hair an ideal stuffing for pincushions because it lubricated the pins, making it easier for them to pierce material. Small pillows could be stuffed with hair, which was less prickly than pinfeathers.

But possibly most important, hair receivers made the creation of ratts possible. A ratt (sometimes spelled rat) is a small ball of hair that was inserted into a hairstyle to add volume and fullness. The ratt was made by stuffing a sheer hairnet until it was about the size of a potato and then sewing it shut.
The word "ratt" as a Victorian term for a hairdo enhancer is interesting because decades ago I remember girls "ratting" their hair with combs to give the hairdo greater size; IIRC it was a back-and-forth motion, but no hair extensions or padding was involved.  I presume the words are distantly related in terms of etymology.

Image credit.

Reposted from 2017 to add a link about Victorian hair art (three examples shown):

"Flesh rots to bone, taking our faces and figures with it. But clip a lock of hair, and it will keep its color for decades, even centuries. Thus, art crafted from hair—a 19th-century tradition in which tresses were braided into jewelry, looped to resemble flower petals, even ground up for use in pigments—remains frozen in time.

Hair art has its roots in the 17th and 18th century, when high infant mortality rates meant that “death was everywhere,” writes Karen Bachmann in an essay for the recent book Death: A Graveside Companion. “The keeping and saving of hair for future use in jewelry or other commemorative craft (such as wreaths) was common.” But it wasn’t until the Victorian era that “the ‘cult of the dead’ became almost a mania in Britain.”

Rarely does the name of the artist survive. It’s believed that most works of hair art were made by women; books on ladies’ “fancywork” provided instructions alongside other Victorian parlor crafts like needlework or wax flowers. One technique, known as palette work, required hair to be laid flat and woven into a pattern, then cut with stencils into shapes. Table work, on the other hand, called for hair to be plaited into jewelry or heirlooms. An 1867 edition of a hair art guide by Mark Campbell affirms: “Persons wishing to preserve and weave into lasting mementos, the hair of a deceased father, mother, sister, brother, or child, can also enjoy the inexpressible advantage and satisfaction of knowing that the material of their own handiwork is the actual hair of the ‘loved and gone.’”
More at the Artsy link, which is quite interesting.

A recent article in Vogue highlights the work of a modern hair artist.
"She arranges her hair one by one, gluing each strand onto delicate Japanese tissue paper before the compositions are framed in lockets or miniatures..."

Elephants working in a salt mine. By choice.

Kitum Cave is a non-solutional cave developed in pyroclastic (volcanic) rocks (not, as some have presumed, a lava tube). It extends about 200 metres (700 ft) into the side of Mount Elgon near the Kenyan border with Uganda. The walls are rich in salt, and animals such as elephants have gone deep into the cave for centuries in search of salt. The elephants use their tusks to break off pieces of the cave wall that they then chew and swallow, leaving the walls scratched and furrowed; their actions have likely enlarged the cave over time. Other animals including bushbuck, buffalo and hyenas come to Kitum Cave to consume salt left by the elephants. 
Via Futility ClosetReposted from 2020.

Two of my favorite things

1) watching a video that explains something I didn't know, and 
2) listening to people speaking Scottish English.

Re the latter, may I heartily recommend the movies of Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting x2, No Country For Old Men, but especially Puzzle).

06 June 2021

Eric Clapton and Willie Nelson - "Nightlife"

I love duets. This one is by two undisputed legends. Performed in New York City, 2003 on the occasion of Willie Nelson's 70th birthday.  What a fantastic birthday party that must have been.

For Clapton performing "Layla" and the history of the song, see here.

Even better is the story behind "Tears in Heaven."

Reposted from 2009.  Shouldn't have waited so long.

04 June 2021

"Tornado Alley" moving east

"Meteorology professor Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University and Harold Brooks of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory tracked the number of tornado reports from 1979 to 2017, while also investigating regional trends in the daily frequency of tornado-environment formation over the same time period, using an index known as the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP). Frequently used for predicting severe weather, the index captures the coexistence of atmospheric ingredients favorable for producing tornadoes. Both the number of actual tornado reports and the historical STP analysis showed the eastward uptick in tornado frequency."

03 June 2021

Props to this man

Via the always-interesting Nag on the Lake.

Re poison ivy

"It can be a ground cover, or shrubby, or a woody vine (called a liana), achieving nearly treelike proportions. Its leaves can be shiny or matte (even in the same population), in various shades of green (or red-bronze, upon emergence), and they vary in size and shape, with margins from smooth to toothed or deeply lobed."
“In one area in Quebec,” Ms. Pell said, “it has straplike leaflets and looks like a fern. In the Southeast, I have seen leaflets as long and wide as my head, and elsewhere, often very close by, leaflets shorter than my thumb.”
"Remember that any tools you use and garments you wear will be tainted with urushiol, and unless they’re thoroughly cleaned they can transfer it to your skin. Carefully bag any debris for the trash, but don’t add it to a burn pile: Urushiol can be released in smoke and will damage lungs.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that it will wear off over time.

“I have heard of rashes caused by contact with tools that hadn’t been used in two years, but still had resin on them,” Ms. Pell said. Researchers referring to old herbarium specimens in scientific collections have likewise had reactions to the dried, pressed plants."
More information re identification and management of poison ivy at the New York Times.

I know of one huge patch of poison ivy on a golf course in northern Minnesota.  Since I'm not sensitive to the oil, I have on occasion waded in to retrieve errant drives, once emerging with my ball and twelve others.
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