31 October 2021

A vampire overslept on this bench this morning

Image cropped for size from the original hereReposted from 2018 for Halloween 2021.

The bizarre humor of Edward Gorey

During my blogcation, I had the opportunity to reread several books by Edward Gorey.  I've amended and updated my post on The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but as I discovered while reading his books, some of the humor was frankly a bit unsettling -

Especially when the subject matter involves children:

I'll defer commentary.  Res ipsae loquuntur.  (hat tip to reader loookas)

Reposted from 2016 for Halloween 2021.

29 October 2021

That's not dew on the leaf. It's guttation.

Guttation is the exudation of drops of xylem sap on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses, and a number of fungi. Guttation (from Latin gutta drop) is not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmosphere onto the plant surface. Guttation generally happens during the night time.

At night, transpiration usually does not occur, because most plants have their stomata closed. When there is a high soil moisture level, water will enter plant roots, because the water potential of the roots is lower than in the soil solution. The water will accumulate in the plant, creating a slight root pressure. The root pressure forces some water to exude through special leaf tip or edge structures, hydathodes or water glands, forming drops. Root pressure provides the impetus for this flow, rather than transpirational pull. Guttation is most noticeable when transpiration is suppressed and the relative humidity is high, such as during the night.
You learn something every day.  Photo via.

A one-hour helicopter flight over Antarctica

Awesome.  Perhaps better viewed on a wide-screen television rather than a computer monitor.

Here is her video about recovering extremophiles from the Antarctic dry valleys.

The 2-million-year evolution of the genus Homo

This simplified schema was created to accompany an article in Evolutionary Anthropology which suggests designating Homo bodoensis as a new taxon.
Recent developments in the field of palaeoanthropology necessitate the suppression of two hominin taxa and the introduction of a new species of hominins to help resolve the current nebulous state of Middle Pleistocene (Chibanian) hominin taxonomy. In particular, the poorly defined and variably understood hominin taxa Homo heidelbergensis (both sensu stricto and sensu lato) and Homo rhodesiensis need to be abandoned as they fail to reflect the full range of hominin variability in the Middle Pleistocene. Instead, we propose: (1) introduction of a new taxon, Homo bodoensis sp. nov., as an early Middle Pleistocene ancestor of the Homo sapiens lineage, with a pan-African distribution that extends into the eastern Mediterranean (Southeast Europe and the Levant); (2) that many of the fossils from Western Europe (e.g. Sima de los Huesos) currently assigned to H. heidelbergensis s.s. be reassigned to Homo neanderthalensis to reflect the early appearance of Neanderthal derived traits in the Middle Pleistocene in the region; and (3) that the Middle Pleistocene Asian fossils, particularly from China, likely represent a different lineage altogether.
Via Gizmodo.

Ötzi's clothing

A study newly published in Nature's Scientific Reports uses mitochondrial DNA analysis to determine the animal sources of the various leathers in Otzi's clothing.
Results indicate that the majority of the samples originate from domestic ungulate species (cattle, sheep and goat), whose recovered haplogroups are now at high frequency in today’s domestic populations. Intriguingly, the hat and quiver samples were produced from wild species, brown bear and roe deer respectively...

The Iceman’s garments and quiver are from an assemblage of at least five different species of animal. The coat alone was a combination of at least four hides and two species: goat and sheep. This result may indicate a haphazard stitching together of clothing based upon materials that were available to the Iceman, as ancient rudimentary leather is posited to rapidly deteriorate after manufacture. However, the leggings were composed of goat leather, which was also used in the manufacture of a 4,500-year-old leggings from Schnidejoch, Switzerland. This result lends support to the idea that Copper Age individuals in the Alpine region selected species for specific attributes when manufacturing clothing. This may also indicate a functional choice of material based on flexibility or insulating potential.
Photo credit South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/A. Ochsenreiter, via the Washington Post.

Reposted from 2016 because I just found this photo (via) taken at the time of the discovery of Ötzi's body:

A "2X4" is not 2" x 4" in size

How did I get to my age without knowing this?
In the Americas, two-bys (2×4s, 2×6s, 2×8s, 2×10s, and 2×12s), named for traditional board thickness in inches, along with the 4×4 (89 mm × 89 mm), are common lumber sizes used in modern construction. They are the basic building blocks for such common structures as balloon-frame or platform-frame housing. Dimensional lumber made from softwood is typically used for construction, while hardwood boards are more commonly used for making cabinets or furniture.

Lumber's nominal dimensions are larger than the actual standard dimensions of finished lumber. Historically, the nominal dimensions were the size of the green (not dried), rough (unfinished) boards that eventually became smaller finished lumber through drying and planing (to smooth the wood). Today, the standards specify the final finished dimensions and the mill cuts the logs to whatever size it needs to achieve those final dimensions. Typically, that rough cut is smaller than the nominal dimensions because modern technology makes it possible to use the logs more efficiently. For example, a "2×4" board historically started out as a green, rough board actually 2 by 4 inches (51 mm × 102 mm). After drying and planing, it would be smaller by a nonstandard amount. Today, a "2×4" board starts out as something smaller than 2 inches by 4 inches and not specified by standards, and after drying and planing is minimally 1+1⁄2 by 3+1⁄2 inches (38 mm × 89 mm).
You learn something every day.  Photo via Reddit.

"How frightened you are..."

"Her husband’s custom was to recount his day to her in detail: what he’d done at the office, how much (or how little) he’d accomplished, with whom he’d had meetings, or met for lunch, or spoken on the phone. There were ongoing narratives—names that had become familiar to her over the years, though she’d met only a few of her husband’s colleagues; rivalries, alliances, sudden rifts, feuds, tragic developments, startling consequences. In these accounts, Allan was invariably the protagonist: the center of the narrative.

Though Abigail did not always listen closely to his reports, she took comfort in hearing them. Impossible not to feel a wave of tenderness for the man who, through the years, from the very start of their marriage, solemnly recited to his wife the banalities of his life, as a child might recite the events of his life to his mother, secure in the knowledge that anything he did, anything he said, because it was his, would be prized by her if not by anyone else.

In exchange, Abigail told her husband of her day, more briefly. For she was the wife, and she had a dread of boring him.

As a young woman, indeed as a girl, Abigail had learned to shape herself to fit the expectations of others. If there was a singular narrative of her life it had the contours of a supple, sinuous snake, ever delighting in its contortions and in the shimmering, iridescent camouflage-skin that contained it.

Even as a mother! Perhaps as a mother most of all.

Crucial not to let them know. How frightened you are, how little you understand. How astonished you are that they have survived.
An excerpt from Detour, by Joyce Carol Oates, published in the March 2021 issue of Harper's Magazine (boldface added).

25 October 2021

Horatio Nelson's lethal wound

The white hole below the left epaulette marks the entry site of the sniper's bullet that killed Lord Nelson at Trafalgar in 1805.
At a quarter-past one in the afternoon, Hardy realised that Nelson was not by his side. He turned to see Nelson kneeling on the deck, supporting himself with his hand, before falling onto his side. Hardy rushed to him, at which point, Nelson smiled:
"Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last .... my backbone is shot through."
He had been hit by a musket ball, fired from the mizzen-top of Redoutable, at a range of 50 feet (15 m). The ball entered his left shoulder, passed through a lung, then his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae, and lodged two inches (5 cm) below his right shoulder blade, in the muscles of his back. Nelson was carried below to the cockpit, by sergeant major of marines Robert Adair, and two seamen. As he was being carried down, he asked them to pause while he gave advice to a midshipman on the handling of the tiller. He then draped a handkerchief over his face to avoid causing alarm amongst the crew. He was taken to ship surgeon William Beatty, telling him:
"You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live. My back is shot through."
He was a good diagnostician.

A satisfying video

Unimportant and perhaps trivial, TBH, but rather satisfying to watch.  I used to do stuff like this when I was young, and would do so again given the opportunity (but I'd use a rake or a tool rather than my hands).

Red and clear obsidian

Posted because I didn't realize that obsidian could be clear.
Pure obsidian is usually dark in appearance, though the color varies depending on the impurities present. Iron and other transition elements may give the obsidian a dark brown to black color. Most black obsidians contain nanoinclusions of magnetite, an iron oxide.  Very few samples of obsidian are nearly colorless. In some stones, the inclusion of small, white, radially clustered crystals (spherulites) of the mineral cristobalite in the black glass produce a blotchy or snowflake pattern (snowflake obsidian). Obsidian may contain patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow, aligned along layers created as the molten rock was flowing before being cooled. These bubbles can produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen (sheen obsidian). An iridescent, rainbow-like sheen (fire obsidian) is caused by inclusions of magnetite nanoparticles creating thin-film interference. Colorful, striped obsidian (rainbow obsidian) from Mexico contains oriented nanorods of hedenbergite, which cause the rainbow striping effects by thin-film interference.
See also why you can shave with an obsidian razor and obsidian found under Lake Huron.  Image via Reddit, where content of the discussion thread is trivial.

JFK assassination records not being released yet

As reported by Politico:
Two nephews of John F. Kennedy are calling on the Biden administration to release the final trove of secret documents on the 1963 assassination of the former president.

The records were scheduled to be made public Tuesday, but the White House announced late Friday night that it would delay their publication until at least Dec. 15 — and perhaps longer if President Joe Biden determines it’s in the nation’s best interest to keep them confidential.

“It’s an outrage. It’s an outrage against American democracy. We’re not supposed to have secret governments within the government,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told POLITICO. “How the hell is it 58 years later, and what in the world could justify not releasing these documents?”..

Biden’s decision to continue Trump’s policy of shielding the records came as a surprise to historians and experts on the assassination because he had served in the U.S. Senate when the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 passed unanimously in Congress. That act, passed in response to questions raised by the 1991 Oliver Stone film “JFK,” set up an independent review board to collect all government files that might have bearing on the assassination and make them public. Most records were released between 1994 and 1998. Only the most sensitive classified documents remain confidential...

The White House declined to comment on the record, issuing a background statement saying that “the National Archives advised that their review of classified material was severely hampered by COVID-19 since classified material cannot be reviewed remotely and asked for more time.” The coronavirus first hit the U.S. in early 2020, more than 27 years after the JFK Records Act passed and more than 56 years after Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas.
Blaming the delay on coronavirus...

Twins from the Gaza strip

Posted as a reminder of how trivial the role of melanin production should be in the overall scheme of human relationships.

I found the image on Reddit without a source, so I suspected it might be spurious, but a TinEye reverse image search yielded the primary article from 2016, which has numerous photos of the girls.  Here is part of the source text translated:
As you stand in front of two small angels, you are drawn to the beautiful and even extravagant features of the beauty of the divine creation, and you do not believe when you learn the relationship between them.

The twins, Baraa and Israa, from the Gaza Strip, suffered from people's looks and questions, due to the different color of their skin.

The father of the twins, Etaf Al-Habal, said that the difference in the color of their skin was shocking to him, so he thought that Esraa had been replaced in the delivery room, until his memory came back to his dark-skinned brother as his uncle, who is blond as his mother, adding that the family carries genetic genes for brunettes. And blondes.

He added, "When I saw them for the first time, I thought that they were not sisters, and that they were switched in the delivery room until I was sure that my wife was the only one to give birth on that day, and there is no one else in the hospital."

Al-Habl stressed that the difference in the skin color of both Baraa and Israa is mainly caused by the genetics of their ancestors, in addition to the fact that they were in two separate sacs inside their mother’s womb, and that the percentage of blonde skin is high in their family compared to brown skin.

The two girls, Esraa and Baraa, emphasized that despite their different skin color, they are related to each other, and they behave in the same manner and wear the same clothes, even as they are similar in the way they sleep and walk.

Al-Habl said that the difference remains in academic achievement, as the twins are among the top achievers in school. However, Israa was a year behind Baraa because she was hit by three shrapnel in her head, neck and foot, and although she has recovered, she still suffers from foot pain as she is receiving treatment. periodically.

19 October 2021

John Steinbeck's "slut" explained

As reported in The Guardian

The word “slut” scrawled at the end of the manuscript for John Steinbeck’s seminal novel The Grapes of Wrath may have been explained, thanks to a handful of Swedish academics.

The Grapes of Wrath was written by Steinbeck in a frenzy of creativity in under 100 days, between May and October 1938. Independent press SP Books released the first ever facsimile of the handwritten manuscript last week, showing Steinbeck’s increasingly tiny handwriting, his swear words, which were excised from the final novel – and a faint “slut”, written in red, at its conclusion.

Welcoming the manuscript’s release last week, Steinbeck expert Susan Shillinglaw described the word “slut” as “an archival mystery”, pondering whether Steinbeck’s wife Carol might have “playfully” written it in red and then erased it, or if someone in the University of Virginia archives had defaced the manuscript. “I suspect the latter, but we’ll never know for sure,” she told the Guardian last week.

But after the Guardian article about the facsimile was published, a handful of Swedish scholars got in touch with Shillinglaw, pointing out the meaning of “slut” in Swedish.

It is the Swedish expression for ‘the end’, used on the last page of all kinds of books, especially children’s books,” wrote Jonathan Shaheen, an academic at Stockholm University, to Shillinglaw. “A well placed ‘slut’ always makes me laugh.

“When the matter was brought to my attention by the University of Virginia archivist, I had no idea when the word was added to the manuscript. I thought perhaps someone was objecting to the final scene, and that the word referred to Rose of Sharon’s actions, offering her breast to a dying man,” she said. “I consulted with Steinbeck scholar Bob DeMott. He had no idea about what the light ‘slut’ at the end meant or who might have written it – a visitor to special collections, perhaps? But when I wrote Bob this week, he said, ‘Mystery solved.’ I felt the same way.” 


The Sicilian town of Gangi - updated with video

When I saw this photo at the via, I immediately went to Google Maps to see a map of the streets:

I'm showing my bias as an American raised on rectilinear grids of streets, but it's hard to imagine navigating in an old city like this.

Addendum:  found a video depicting streetviews and interior views -

Immense polycystic kidneys

It's particularly sad when a disease is nobody's "fault", but instead occurs as the result of a random wayward gene or two.  I do hope this man finds a donor.

American ragpickers

This person is a "You Tuber" who starts with an effusive "Hello friends..." which is my signal to tap the mute button.  I'm posting this just to show the mountains of returned "trash and treasures" created by Amazon.   The scenes remind me of those steaming piles of refuse in videos like this.

Tip of the day for newbies:  after the mute button, the other useful browsing tools are to hover your mouse over the progress bar, and to click the right arrow on your keyboard to jump through the video in 5-second intervals.

So much stuff.  I wonder what our grandparents would have thought of this.

18 October 2021

A merkin salesman

Merkins are wigs for the pubic area, with origins dating back at least to the 15th century, when pubic hair was sometimes shaved to combat pubic lice; merkins were also worn to cover dermatologic evidence of syphilis.  Via.

Modern-day merkins can be viewed in a Google Image search (mostly safe for work, depending on where you work), with subsections for Hollywood, burlesque, etc (even a face-hugger variant).

And for completeness of "things you wouldn't know," here are instructions on how to attach (and remove) a merkin.

Addendum:  A tip of the hat to reader Drabkikker, who tracked down the fact that this photo is a bit of art that is the creation of a modern photographer.  Merkins, however, were real, so I'll leave the post up for the educational value of the links.

I don't know why this happens

The leaves are from a milkweed plant in our garden.  Asymmetry in foliage coloration is certainly not rare, but these examples were particularly striking.  Perhaps the difference starts with leaf morphogenesis, with a cell dividing and the two halves following different clocks, or maybe it's a phenomenon that is a result of the vascular pattern.  It's nothing important - just as oddity AFAIK.

I'm heading back to the Arboretum later this week.  Prime leaf-peeping season has begun.

A walking tour of the Giza Plateau

A lengthy (100 minute) tour, quite nicely done in terms of image quality and absence of any of the inane audio commentary that accompanies so many similar videos.  I would have liked to have seen more closeup detail of the Sphinx, which is only visible at some distance in the closing ten minutes.  Via Kottke.

I did find this screencap particularly interesting:

The hole is an entrance to an underground chamber.  Above it, prominently displayed on a plinth, is a stone in the shape of the state of Wisconsin.  

Over the millennia the Door County peninsula has weathered away, and perhaps Napoleon's soldier's damaged the Indianhead area when they were vandalizing the Sphinx, but it is clear that the ancient Egyptians must have had extensive knowledge of Wisconsin, perhaps on their trips to the Keweenaw Peninsula to mine copper ore before returning down the Mississippi to the Gulf - leaving behind some small pyramids at Aztalan State Park.

Or maybe they just came for the cheese curds.

La Palma home with mountain view

From The Guardian today (Saul Santos/AP) comes this photo of a home on La Palma, where the volcano has been erupting.  

That's not lava - just ash.  Sort of a Canary Islands equivalent of a Swiss chalet covered with snow.   I suspect the ash will be so caustic that a simple cleanup with broom and dustpan will not be sufficient.  And I feel sad for all the wild critters that would not have been able to escape.

Addendumvideo of a policeman on the streets facing windblown ash.

I seem to be encountering problems embedding images - (update: solved, I think)

I just noticed the problem today; not sure how long it has been going on.

Normally (historically) every image I embed has been clickable and enlarges to supersize.  Now I'm seeing photos that not only fail to enlarge, but even appear smaller when one clicks on them.

The post below this one has a NASA image composed of photos of the moon.  When I click on the photo, instead of enlarging to view details, I see this tiny image:

I don't know WTF is going on - whether the problem is with my computer or Blogspot or what.  Bear with me.  I'll try to sort this out (later).

Addendum:  A comment by reader Kniffler seems to have steered me to the source of the problem, which seems to have been on my end (the browser opening images at the incorrect magnification).  If so, it will not have affected your viewing.

As Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to say on Laugh-In... "Never mind."

The "Moona Lisa"

Only natural colors of the Moon in planet Earth's sky appear in this creative visual presentation. Arranged as pixels in a framed image, the lunar disks were photographed at different times. Their varying hues are ultimately due to reflected sunlight affected by changing atmospheric conditions and the alignment geometry of Moon, Earth, and Sun. Here, the darkest lunar disks are the colors of earthshine. A description of earthshine, in terms of sunlight reflected by Earth's oceans illuminating the Moon's dark surface, was written over 500 years ago by Leonardo da Vinci. 

But stand farther back from your monitor or just shift your gaze to the smaller versions of the image. You might also see one of da Vinci's most famous works of art.
Image and text from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

16 October 2021

Mandarin duck

Because we like to end the blogging day with an interesting photo.  Via.
Photo credit to Kjetil Salomonsen, a birder from Bergen (Norway).

This little Mandarin duck was the attraction of the month here in Bergen, mostly because he is a juvenile that was spotted alone in a small pond with still his immature plumage on. Between early October and last weekend, people have gone there often and were able to see the progression of his colors from immature to a vibrant grown male.

For reference, here is the same individual that I captured about 10 days prior, look at the difference in colors not even two weeks can make!

Reposted to add this photo of another Mandarin duck (via): 

15 October 2021

Superb sand art in a bottle

Two examples of the work of Andrew Clemens.
Andrew Clemens (1857 – 1894) was a sand artist from Iowa in the United States. Clemens formed his pictures by compressing natural colored sands inside chemists' jars to create his works of art.

He would collect naturally colored grains of sand from an area in Pikes Peak State Park known as Pictured Rocks. At Pictured Rocks, the basal portion of the sandstone near the Sand Cave is naturally colored by iron and mineral staining. Clemens separated the sand grains into piles, by color, and used them to form the basis for his art... 

To create his art he inserted the presorted grains of sand into small glass drug bottles using homemade tools formed out of hickory sticks and florists wire. His process utilized no glue and pressure from the other sand grains alone held the artwork together. When Clemens completed a sand bottle he sealed the bottle with a stopper and wax...

Andrew returned to McGregor [Iowa] to live year-round after a fire at the State School for the Deaf destroyed the dorm where he had lived... Clemens showed his work at the Saint Paul Dime Museum in 1889. He earned an invitation to demonstrate his work at the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition, which he declined due to his failing health. His artwork sold for $5–7 at the time...
Image via.

Another (expensive) example found by reader shiningrobes.

Punctuation (only)

Miss Cellania posted at Neatorama on online tool that allows one to remove all text letters from a passage, leaving behind only the punctuation marks.  I applied that tool to the longest entry I've written for TYWKIWDBI, with the result seen above.

That particular post involved artificial page breaks (*****) and a lot of citations from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, so I tried the tool again on a two-page letter I wrote earlier this week -

- which obviously included a number of URLs.

I wrestled with the question as to whether these images contain punctuation since the symbols don't separate and define any text, but the etymology of punctuation is from the Latin punctuo ("to mark with points"), so I guess it's o.k.

Slow-motion moth flight

Fascinating to watch.  It always amazes me how a creature that has spent its entire life crawling around on a plant can then come out of a cocoon and know how to do this.

I have previously featured life cycles of two of these moths in TYWKIWDBI: the Polyphemus in 2012, and the Virginia Tiger Moth in 2010.

Via Kottke, who notes that "the rest of Smith’s AntLab videos are worth looking through ."

12 October 2021

There is NO RED COLOR in this image

It does look like there is a red letter and a red background on the other flag, but those are optical illusions - illustrated with closeups at Neatorama.

What's eating the mullein ? Solved - it's Paracorsia repandalis

We occasionally find mullein (Verbascum sp.) growing next to our driveway, mixed i with the milkweed and shrubbery.  It's not something we plant, so is technically a weed, but we tolerate it because it can grow to such magnificent proportions.  The photo above is from 2013.

This year mullein appeared in the same general area, but met a sad fate.  The central "spear" was persistently attacked and eaten, not by the rabbits, but by some insect.

I found some semilunar cuts reminiscent of what Monarch cats do to milkweed -

-  but never found a caterpillar under the leaves (it might feed only at night).   I let the process go on its own for most of the summer, then this past week decided to dig into the central mass.

What I retrieved is a generally formless mass of plant fibers liberally admixed with frass.  I didn't want to remove all of it, but I did finally dissect the "mass of frass" to find this little fellow -

- a semitranslucent larva that doesn't resemble any butterfly caterpillar I'm aware of.  It could be a moth larva, but the overall appearance frankly looks a bit more like a beetle larva than a lepidoptera species -

It looks not unlike the "grubs" that my mom and I used to dig out of rotting stumps in the woods up at Leech Lake to use for fishing bait back in the 1960s. (the color a bit inaccurate in my available-light photo; it was more yellowish in real life).

I have no idea what it is.  It currently is residing in a container with some of that chewed mass plus some fresh leaves in a closed container on our screen porch.  Given the season I would expect it to pupate in anticipation of winter.

A brief internet search didn't yield an answer for me.  Googling mullein + caterpillar results in numerous hits for a "mullein moth" that is native to Europe.  A 1904 article "What ate the mullein?" in Elementary School Teacher didn't offer a definitive answer.

I'd be delighted to hear any suggestions.  Is this important?  Not at all.  Just that curious minds want to know.

Addendum:  SOLVED by reader Kniffler, who found the moth Paracorsia repandalis at the Maryland Biodiversity Project, where these photos were posted:

Credit for all photos to Peter Coffey.  Apparently what I referred to as a "formless mass of plant fibers" was actually composed of trichomes from the leaves (admixed with an abundance of frass).

I'll check in a few days and see if I can find the pupa.

Addendum:  Here's a good article about mullein found by reader Crowboy.

And also I'm wondering if the "cotton" in the bee nest I found in a window back in 2019 was comprised of these trichomes from mullein.  Looks very similar.

Volcanic hydrochloric acid production

The toxic soup of volcanic gases (carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide) is familiar to most everyone.  Today I learned about a new one being produced on La Palma in the Canaries:
One river of lava reached the ocean near Playa de Los Guirres on Sept. 28. It poured off a 300-foot-tall cliff into the seawater below, prompting authorities to urge residents to remain indoors with their windows closed to limit the entry of outside air. When lava enters the ocean, it heats up seawater extremely rapidly, splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen ions. Some of the hydrogen combines with chlorine ions in the seawater to form hydrochloric acid and produce a gas that is toxic when inhaled.
You learn something every day (though hydrochloric acid shouldn't exist as a gas - perhaps they mean hydrogen chloride, or else the HCl is aerosolized as inhalable droplets).  

Image cropped for size from the original. 

A new cryptocurrency

Redeemable in ice cream.  Explained at Neatorama.

White supremacy presented as religion

"In rural Minnesota, a fringe Heathen group known as the Asatru Folk Assembly has purchased a local church – and membership is strictly whites-only. They worship Nordic, pre-Christian gods and they call themselves a 'folk religion' that only accepts those with northern European ancestry. Their racially exclusive ideology is protected by the first amendment

Amudalat Ajasa visits the church to understand how it is gaining influence across the country and to meet the anti-racist Heathens fighting back to reclaim their religion."
I couldn't watch this all the way through, but I'll post it because it's important to know about the existence of groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly.

Yarns dyed with pigments derived from mushrooms and lichens

Information about these natural dyes at the Cornell Mushroom Blog.  Image via.
Tyrian purple, the desired color, was originally extracted from a marine mollusk, and initially, lichen dyes were used only as underdyes. However, as the mollusk population was depleted, lichens became the primary source of the valuable purples, for they also were found to have a natural affinity to woolen and silk textiles...

The techniques and knowledge for making orchil lichen dyes were great secrets in early times. The earliest known description of the preparation of orchil was given by Roseto in 1540. The process generally consisted of obtaining the desired lichen, adding it to stale urine and slaked lime, and waiting...

I also found this re the history of purple dyes

"Citizen Hearst" trailer

This four-hour PBS presentation from the American Experience series is an excellent documentary, because even though most people are vaguely familiar with the overall story via Citizen Kane, the details re Hearst's life are fascinating.

Available for viewing online (not in libraries yet, AFAIK).

10 October 2021

Impressive migration of a bee-eater - updated

"A female European Honey Buzzard was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland and was of particular interest to South African locals because it spent the most austral summer (our winter) around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz in SA to start heading north on 20 April and on 2 June she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again this autumn to South Africa."

The photo shows the data received from the tracker which plots the route that she took to head north... so, in just 42 days, she covered over 10,000 km at an average of more than 230 km every single day!  

Had to look up the bird:
The European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), also known as the pern or common pern, is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae.

Despite its English name, this species is more closely related to kites of the genera Leptodon and Chondrohierax than to true buzzards in Buteo. The binomen is derived from Ancient Greek pernes περνης, a term used by Aristotle for a bird of prey, and Latin apivorus "bee-eating", from apis, "bee" and -vorus, "-eating". In fact, bees are much less important than wasps in the birds' diet. Note that it is accordingly called Wespenbussard ("wasp buzzard") in German and similarly in some other Germanic languages and also in Hungarian ("darázsölyv").

It is a specialist feeder, living mainly on the larvae and nests of wasps and hornets, although it will take small mammals, reptiles, and birds. It is the only known predator of the Asian hornet. It spends large amounts of time on the forest floor excavating wasp nests. It is equipped with long toes and claws adapted to raking and digging, and scale-like feathering on its head, thought to be a defence against the stings of its victims. Honey buzzards are thought to have a chemical deterrent in their feathers that protects them from wasp attacks.
Wish we had one in the back yard to control the yellow jackets.

Reposted after totally rewriting the post based on information from the source, which was located by reader Lones Smith.

Addendum:  Gotta share this awesome photo found by reader Crowboy -

08 October 2021

White sage on a Wisconsin hillside

Photographed this week on the West Knoll of the Grady Tract of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, while on a hike with the Friends of the Arboretum.

I always prefer to hike and photograph on cloudy or overcast days when the diffuse light offers better images (IMHO) that those taken in bright sunshine with stark contrasts of light and dark.  

Intermixed with the sage are some young sumac plants sporting their October colors (parent plants in the background).  The hillside is a remnant prairie.

This sage is, I believe, a species of Artemisia, which is a bit different from the shrub-sized salvia in California - also referred to as "white sage" - which has been the subject of a report in Vice entitled The White Sage Black Market.

October is prime leaf-peeping season in Wisconsin, so I hope to continue with some additional posts in the weeks ahead.   This particular hike was a three-hour exploration led by Michael Hansen, the Arboretum's land care manager, who

discussed the glacial morphology of the land and explained what the University is doing to combat invasive species such as the bittersweet vines and the everpresent buckthorn.  "Rewilding" two hundred acres in the center of a city is not an easy task.

Gorilla dies in the arms of her human

"The Virunga National Park said in a statement Tuesday that Ndakasi died on Sept. 26 after battling a prolonged illness and “took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma.” The statement is accompanied by a photo of Bauma, who befriended the gorilla when she was just 2 months old, holding Ndakasi shortly before her death at the park’s Senkwekwe Center, where she had lived for about 12 years.

Bauma, who was not made available for an interview, said in a statement that it was “a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature.”

“It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me to understand the connection between humans and Great Apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them,” he said. “I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend.”..

Her life started with tragedy. In April 2007, rangers at the Congolese park found a 2-month-old Ndakasi “clinging to the lifeless body of her mother, gunned down by armed militia hours earlier,” park officials said in a statement. Her mother’s death was part of a series of massacres of gorilla families in the region that led the park to strengthen the protection of its mountain gorillas, they added.

Understanding how dangerous it would be to leave the mountain gorilla by herself, vulnerable to people with guns and human encroachment, rangers brought Ndakasi to the park’s rescue center. It’s there that she met Bauma.

“All night long, Andre held the baby close to him,” the park said in a statement."
And as a reminder, this gif of a silverback attempting to console a small child who had fallen into a gorilla enclosure.

Time-lapse of Covid-19 in the United States

Pretty much as everyone remembers this unfolding, but I have to say that the second recent peak is rather startling.  Via Kottke.

"Covid toe" reported

The skin condition known as Covid toe may be a side-effect of the immune system’s response to fighting off the virus, according to a study.

The symptom results in chilblain-like inflammation and redness on the hands and feet, with the condition sometimes lasting for months at a time. It typically develops within a week to four weeks of being infected and can result in toes and fingers becoming swollen or changing colour...

Concerns were raised in the opening months of the pandemic that so-called Covid toe was one of the non-recognised symptoms of infection, after patients in several countries reported the condition even though, in some cases, they displayed none of the usual symptoms...

Dr Veronique Bataille, a consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, said Covid toe was seen very frequently during the early phase of the pandemic, but had been less common in the current Delta variant wave.

She said that might be down to more people being vaccinated or having some protection against Covid from past infections. “Presentations after vaccination are much rarer.”
Basically a peripheral vasculopathy.  Worth emphasizing that this is a complication of coronavirus infection, not a side effect of immunization.  More information at the Guardian source and the British Journal of Dermatology.
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