30 November 2021

Today is (or is not) Opposite Day

Opposite Day is a game usually played by children. One can declare that today is Opposite Day (sometimes retroactively) to indicate something which will be said, or has just been said should be understood opposite to its original meaning (similar to the practice of crossed fingers to automatically nullify promises).

An analysis of this concept would conclude that Opposite day causes a self-referential paradox. In theory, the statement "it is opposite day", if uttered on opposite day, should mean "it is not opposite day". However, the statement "it is not opposite day" also does not clearly communicate the meaning of "it is opposite day", since it must first be communicated that it is opposite day before the statement can be interpreted this way. Therefore, there is no unambiguous way to communicate that the current day is opposite day.
First I've heard of this, but here's a description from 2001.  A google search suggests that it is celebrated on January 25.  Or not...

A sampling from Pearls Before Swine

The full series can be accessed at GoComics (it has such a great title)  

(p.s. - it's barrels all the way down)

29 November 2021

CSI, nineteenth-century style

"A short distance from the village of Bertha, Todd County, was one of those burned out meadows on which grass had been cut for many years and no one who had travelled over its smooth surface ever thought that it was the burial place of a human being.

After the turf had been burned off, there lay the scattered bones of a man.  Among them was a silver watch and the remains of a jackknife... 

A short distance from where the cabin had stood was a tree on which were scars as if it had been cut into with an axe.

When the remains were found, the Clines remembered about... the scarred tree and went there and cut into the scars to see how many years had elapsed since they were made.  They found that the scars had been caused by some person cutting bullets out of the tree in order to save the lead, as was a common practice in those early days, and they also found that there were 42 annual rings of growth over the scars, showing that those bullets had been cut from that tree about the year 1850.  The fact that his watch was with his remains indicated that he had not been murdered but why did he die on the meadow instead of in his cabin?  The conclusion that young Cline and I arrived at was that he had a place were he obtained water dug in the meadow and while very ill had gone there to quench his thirst and had been unable to return to his cabin and had breathed out his life all alone on the turf."
Excerpted from Tracks and Trails: or Incidents in the Life of a Minnesota Territorial Pioneer, by Captain "Nate" Dally, Owner and Captain of the "Leila D" Steamboat, the First Steamboat Built and Operated on Leech Lake by a Private Individual.  Published by the Pilot-Independent, Walker MN, 1931.  Reprinted 1994.

How to use a horse's tail to catch fish

"When we started from Illinois, father had, so he thought, provided himself with all that he would need in a new country, but he had forgotten fishing lines, though he had a plenty of hooks, but the matter of not having lines did not block him, for after supper he went out and pulled a bunch of long hair from a horses tail and after soaking it in warm water for a short time, he stripped up his pants and drawers to bare his leg on which to roll the horse hair and in a few minutes he had made a line twelve or fourteen feet long and stout enough to hold any ordinary fish."
Excerpted from Tracks and Trails: or Incidents in the Life of a Minnesota Territorial Pioneer, by Captain "Nate" Dally, Owner and Captain of the "Leila D" Steamboat, the First Steamboat Built and Operated on Leech Lake by a Private Individual.  Published by the Pilot-Independent, Walker MN, 1931.  Reprinted 1994.

26 November 2021

Tibetan yak

Image cropped for size from the one at the via.

A compilation of rare and unusual baseball plays

Said to be the "world's largest freeway"

The Katy freeway (Interstate 10) in Houston "was expanded to as many as 20 total lanes in Houston, but due to induced demand, travel times along the highway within the city increased as much as 30 percent."  Comments about the road at the via.

That photo reminded me of this one, of "Detroit before and after the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956":

Should you NOT point at a rainbow ?

Many cultures around the world consider it improper - or even dangerous - to point at a rainbow.  Excerpts from an article in Atlas Obscura:
He would soon amass evidence for the rainbow taboo—in some form or another—in 124 cultures. The prohibition turned up in North America, among the Atsugewi of northern California and the Lakota of the northern plains; in remote parts of Australia and isolated islands in Melanesia; among the Nyabwa of Ivory Coast and the Kaiwá of Brazil. At one time it was present in Europe, too: one of the Grimm brothers noted it in his book on German mythology. The belief was not found in every culture, according to Blust’s search, but it was present globally, across all inhabited regions.

There was also more to the taboo than the vague idea that pointing to rainbows is bad. Blust found that it often came bundled with specific ideas about what would happen if you violated the taboo, ideas that varied from culture to culture. Most commonly, your finger would suffer the consequences: it might become bent or paralyzed, fall off, wither, rot, or swell, or develop warts, ulcers, or maggots. Less commonly—such as in parts of New Guinea and Australia—the ill effects would befall your mother. In most cases, it was specifically pointing with the index finger that was prohibited. It was fine to draw attention to a rainbow using your head, lips, nose, or tongue, or by forming your hand in a less “pointy” shape, such as a fist. A final recurring idea was that, should you accidentally point to a rainbow, there were remedies. You could wet the offending digit; or put it into a bodily cavity like your mouth, anus, or belly button; or, according to the Javanese version of the taboo, plunge it into a pile of buffalo dung.
Continue reading at the link.  Photo credit Eric Rolph at English Wikipedia.

From Middle English, from Latin īris, from Ancient Greek ἶρις (îris, “rainbow”), from Proto-Indo-European *wey-ro- (“a twist, thread, cord, wire”), from *weh₁y- (“to turn, twist, weave, plait”). Cognate to English wire.  

25 November 2021

Thinking of refugees on Thanksgiving

If you have nothing else to be thankful for on this day, be thankful that you are not a refugee - political refugee, war refugee, climate refugee, whatever.  I fully understand that some migrants are economic opportunists seeking to game the system, but the vast majority are helpless victims of circumstances beyond their control - from wildfires, floods, droughts, ethnic cleansing, national geopolitical policies, and wars.

The top embedded image is from the border between Poland and Belarus, where the migrants are political pawns in an autocrat's power struggle with the EU.  They have been displaced from their homes, have only what they can carry, lack food and shelter and are facing an oncoming winter entirely at the mercy of strangers.

Here's an old photo of a Syrian refugee child:

“I was using a telephoto lens, and she thought it was a weapon,” photographer Osman Sağırlı told the BBC. “İ realized she was terrified after I took it, and looked at the picture, because she bit her lips and raised her hands. Normally kids run away, hide their faces or smile when they see a camera.”
It's tempting to succumb to "compassion fatigue" when reading about the never-ending world crises, or to consider oneself safe from geopolitical conflicts, ignoring the potential of becoming a climate refugee.

Tigers in the United States

Excerpts from an interesting article in the December 2019 issue of National Geographic:
My visit to the Ringling center with photographer Steve Winter was just one stop during a two-year investigation into why there are likely more tigers living in cages in the U.S. than remain in the wild... we found that most tigers in this country live in small zoos and animal attractions - known generally in the industry as "roadside" zoos - where care standards can vary widely, in some cases endangering the animals in them and the humans who visit them...

You can get a USDA license to exhibit or breed gerbils - and then exhibit or breed any animal you want, including big cats...

Tiger cubs are a gold mine, especially white ones... A quick photo op or five-minute cuddle runs $10 to $100.  A three-hour zoo tour with cub handling can run $700 a person.  Guests often are told they're helping to save wild tigers.  They leave happy and post selfies on social media.

What they don't know is the cubs' history or future.  Most are born in tiger mills where females churn out two or three litters a year, compared withone litter every two years in the wild.  Cubs are pulled from their mothers soon after birth... When they're just a few weeks old, the cubs go to work, sometimes passed around for up to 10 hours a day.  The profits can be enormous...

In 2003 Illinois corrections officer William Kapp was convicted for his role in shooting 18 tigers and leopards in their cages and brokering the sale of their meat and skins to buyers.  The same year, California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigators found 90-some dead animals - mostly tigers, including 58 cubs - in a freezer when they raided the home of John Weinhart, owner of Tiger Rescue, a facility in Colton, California, that billed itself as a sanctuary for animals that had worked in the entertainment industry...
The source article is behind a paywall, but the magazine can almost certainly be checked out from your local library.  A gallery of photos from the article is posted at the Natural History Museum's recognition of Steve Winter as their Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

How the United States was divvied up

"[Daniel] Boone's early, temporary excursions into the "Land of Tomorrow" [Kentucky] gave him a sense of the beauty and unknown dangers he could expect... The trips also led to property claims on the land by the travelers, in turn prompting a demand for surveyors to record those claims.  One such team of surveyors put their lives on the line to parcel off two thousand acres below the Elk River for George Washington, then a representative to the Virginia legislature, and in two other spots recorded seven thousand acres for another legislator, Patrick Henry, who was ready to carve out a large piece of property in a place unknown to him.  Washington and Henry, like other influential politicos, believed they could get rich from pushing into the territory.

"Years earlier, the British had forbidden private purchase of lands from American Indians such as the one Henderson engineered, having cited 'the great dissatisfaction of the said Indians' involved in such transactions." 

---- excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap that Shaped America, by Matthew Pearl (HarperCollins, 2021). 

Anaerobic preservation exemplified

Car retrieved from a Norwegian lake after 49 years.  The front end had been buried in the lake bottom mud.  Note the preservation of the paint and the shiny hubcap.

Lake bottoms, ocean bottoms, peat bogs etc are famous for their ability to preserve organic material because the environment is anaerobic (oxygen-depleted).

A recent example was the retrieval of a 1200-year old wooden canoe from the bottom of a lake here in Madison, Wisconsin.  Lots of photos and a video at the link depict the recovery process.

24 November 2021

"Mickey-Mousing" explained

For cruciverbalists

For the past five years I've been solving the crossword puzzles in the Los Angeles Times (and the New York Times) every day as a sort of mental exercise to keep my brain in shape.  This morning I was stunned to encounter an absolutely remarkable construction.  This is not a particularly difficult puzzle (Wednesday-level) and it can be completed by experienced crossword enthusiasts in 5-10 minutes.  But when you get to the final Down clue, a truly remarkable feature about the construction is revealed.

You can try it first (at the link), or read on below the fold for a minor spoiler/reveal about why this particular puzzle is so awesome...

Hubble's "Ultra Deep Field" photo - updated

This is called the Hubble Ultra Deep Field. Starting in late 2003, astronomers pointed Hubble at a tiny, relatively empty part of our sky (only a few stars from the Milky Way visible), and created an exposure nearly 12 days long over a four-month period. The result is this amazing image, looking back through time at thousands of galaxies that range from 1 to 13 billion light-years away from Earth. Some 10,000 galaxies were observed in this tiny patch of sky (a tenth the size of the full moon) - each galaxy a home to billions of stars. 
Credit NASA/ESA/S. Beckwith - STScI, and The HUDF Team.

Selected from a gallery of 50 photos chosen by The Big Picture as the most significant images of the past decade. I wish I could post all 50. Absolutely worth a click and scroll.

Reposted from 2009.  And reposted again from 2016 to add this photo of the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field.

"The Hubble eXtreme Deep Field (HXDF), released on September 25, 2012, is an image of a portion of space in the center of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image. Representing a total of two million seconds (approximately 23 days) of exposure time collected over 10 years, the image covers an area of 2.3 arcminutes by 2 arcminutes, or approximately 80% of the area of the HUDF. This represents approximately one thirty-two millionth of the sky.

The HXDF contains approximately 5,500 galaxies..."

23 November 2021

I'm disappointed that it's only a kugel

Several summers ago I visited the home of a fellow butterfly enthusiast.  I happened to look up while we were seated in the family room and spotted a Monarch chrysalis (like this) -

- dangling from the ceiling.  Kevin was delighted to realize that his escaped Monarch caterpillar had made it to a safe location and was not at risk of being squished on the carpet.

That was the memory that came to my mind when I saw a page from a recent issue of  Martha Stewart Living magazine (embedded at the top).  The photo caption indicates that what is hanging from the entryway is "an unusually large late-19th-century German copper-blown-glass kugel.

So I had to look up "kugel" and found this at RealOrRepro:
"Kugel" is the name of heavy glass Christmas ornaments that were made in Germany from as early as 1840 to the early 1900s. Although the word kugel means "round ball" in German, original kugels were also made in the shape of grapes, apples, pears, pine cones, berries, tear drops and balls with melon-style ribs.

Original kugels are generally lined inside with silver. The outside colors are red, cobalt, blue, green, silver, gold and amethyst. There is a hole in the top of each ornament which is concealed by a brass cap. Caps may or may not have an embossed design. Caps are fastened to the ornament with a piece of wire with spread out legs. Circular hanging loops are usually fastened to the wire on the cap.
A quick Google Image search did not lead me to any photos of kugels intentionally designed and colored to look like a butterfly chrysalis.  Perhaps one of my German readers will know whether such fabrications exist.  I would hope so.

"Democrats are pushing tax breaks for the rich"

Excerpts from a op-ed in The Guardian:
The last time Democrats held the presidency and Congress, the party spent its first year in power enriching big banks that had cratered the economy and then letting public money subsidize the Wall Street bonuses of their campaign donors. The spectacle gave Republicans a political bailout in the 2010 midterms, allowing them to depict themselves as anti-establishment populists challenging an elitist government.

Twelve years later, history is rhyming. Democrats were vaulted into office on popular promises to tax the wealthy, but they are now generating national headlines about their proposal to provide new tax breaks narrowly targeted to enrich their affluent blue-state donors – just as a new survey shows nearly two thirds of Americans see the party as “out of touch with the concerns of most people.”..

Democratic leaders are pushing a regressive proposal to allow wealthy property owners to deduct more of their state and local taxes (SALT) from their federal taxes...

Under current law, the relatively small number of Americans wealthy enough to itemize their tax returns are barred from writing more than $10,000 of their state and local tax levies off their federal tax returns. In 2019, that was just 13% of Americans.

That means the entire SALT debate is about a policy almost exclusively affecting a small number of rich people, who already disproportionately benefit from other tax breaks. And really, it’s about the miniscule number of rich folk who happen to live in specific locales with higher state and local levies, and who pay more than $10,000 of those levies every year...

It shows that while the Build Back Better reconciliation bill would still raise taxes on billionaires, adding SALT deductions to the bill would provide no significant help for the middle class, and would result in big tax breaks for very rich people just below the billionaire stratosphere...

In a nation where 87% of people already make too little to itemize their tax returns and are therefore not eligible for any SALT deductions, Democrats’ whole campaign is designed to confuse and distract from all the data showing that repealing the SALT cap would be a more regressive policy than Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, and would exacerbate racial and economic inequality.
It has been a truism all through my lifetime that "we have the best Congress that money can buy."

Comments closed.  What's to discuss?

"Wear a mask"

A Beauty and the Beast classic repurposed for a good cause.  (Comments closed because there's nothing more to say.)

Reposted from 2020 because it's still relevant.

Sherpa-built stone staircases in Norway

Unlike normal hiking paths, they have been conceived to reduce the number of accidents and mountain rescues (by making it safer to walk) and created to help prevent erosion and strengthen the relationship between visitors and the land around them (by protecting the country's vulnerable mountain landscapes). They can also withstand all forms of weathering. Silently, they exist as monuments of an ambitious and more sustainable national plan to make outdoor exploration more sustainable...

For many, the stone staircases can lower the threshold for experiencing nature, which is important to strengthen public health."

That the ethnic group [Sherpas] are elite mountaineers and experts at working in difficult mountains conditions makes them the perfect trail builders, and today Vetti relies on a pool of some 120 hardy Sherpas every year. It is telling, he told me, that his business is thriving despite the coronavirus pandemic. This summer, 39 builders arrived to work on 20 projects across the country...

So, when visiting the country, don't go seeking an alternative path.

Preserve and protect the habitats you're exploring.

Leave no trace.

And stick to the stairs.
More at the BBC.

"Breaking Bad" in real life

More than 17,500 pounds (7,930 kg) of meth and 389 pounds (176 kg) of fentanyl were discovered last Thursday, hidden inside a tractor-trailer at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
Via at The Guardian.

21 November 2021

Pennies vs. pence

An excerpt from a letter to the editor in a recent issue of The American Philatelist:
"Before decimalization, the single word for multiple d coins was pennies, not pence.  Pence was only used in combination - sixpence, thruppence, and then usually only to designate the coin.  If you had a sixpence, you could buy six pennies' worth of sweets.  A stamp selling for 5d was called a five-penny stamp.  Pence as a standalone word only came into common use following decimalization. If you asked for a 5 pence stamp before, it would have sounded odd.  Now it is the norm.  I think even now, pence should be a plural noun with penny being the singular form.  "A pence" sounds very strange to me.  And any use of pence as an adjective seems odd, such as "shilling and pence stamps."

19 November 2021

Fascinating brief video


Who knew phytoplankton are so interesting?  Via Kottke.

The urbanization of Africa

Far and away the most awesome article I've encountered this week is a longread at the Washington Post about the urbanization of Africa.  And when I say longread, I mean long - potentially hours to absorb all the material.  But the presentation incorporates outstanding graphs, maps, and gif visuals.

I would bet that most Americans interviewed on the street would view Africa as a vast jungle with a desert on top, and I think American and European policymakers share that sentiment.  Chinese policymakers and businessmen are not blind to the continent's potential:

A major difference between Chinese and United States planning is that the Chinese plan decades in advance; Americans formulate policies based on the next election cycle.  For many years the Chinese have poured vast resources into Africa, building geopolitical influence and also gaining access to the enormous untapped mineral and natural resources of the continent.  Western countries ignore this at their peril.

The article is TMI for almost everyone, but it's worth a click and a scroll down the page.

See also China in Africa:win-win development, or a new colonialism?  Hat tip to reader Kolo Jezdec.

U.S. Constitution sells for $43 milliion

A first printing of the U.S. Constitution sold for $43.2 million Thursday night at a Sotheby’s auction, setting a record for a historic document.

Sotheby’s didn’t disclose a winner of the auction... The artifact carried a presale estimate of $15 million to $20 million and belonged to collector Dorothy Goldman. Her late husband, S. Howard Goldman, had purchased it for $165,000 in 1988
Details at Bloomberg; photo credit Sotheby's.

16 November 2021

Eggs from old hens and young hens

They are different.  Image cropped for size from the one at the via shows eggs from old hens on the left, young hens on the right.  Comments from the discussion thread:
Older hens tend to lay bigger eggs its one of the reasons that egg producers get rid. This is because larger eggs cause blockages. Also if you zoom in on the older eggs you'll see more discolouration and wrinkles in the eggs also happens more when the hyper modern breeds get older as they struggle to get enough calcium to keep up with their production.

Here is an example of an egg she laid that suffered from the lack of calcium you speak of. It's not that she's not fed calcium, it's that she's too old and absorbed less

TIL in OP’s linked post that some chickens will discover they love the taste of their own eggs if you feed them to them without disguising what it is first.  Then you end up with an ‘egg eater’ who goes around and pilfers all the good eggs in your coop before you can get to them.

Chicken raiser here. You don't have to disguise eggs to feed them back. Some hens will develop egg eating habits, but most will not. I feed eggs back all the time and mine will only eat eggs with a broken shell. I've raised hundreds and hundreds of birds with only a couple egg eaters in the mix.

We have chickens and we were horrified by this fact when we first learned it. What made it ok is the reminder that these goofy creatures are descended from dinosaurs and they are omnivores. They'll go bananas for scrambled eggs - a helpful thing to know when teaching them to come when called - but we had to be ok with that whole idea before we could begin training. Also, I made a roast chicken one night (not one of mine) and I gave them the carcass. The last I saw of it, they were happily rolling it down the hill picking what they could off of it. I suspect they ate bones and all; I never saw any of it after they were done with it. Chickens are metal.

Chickens are basically pigs with wings. Between the two animals we basically have no organic waste on our farm. They eat it all.
And more at the link.  You learn something every day.

Lots of Americans planning to spend nothing for gifts this holiday season

"The survey, released Wednesday, shows that 11.5% of U.S. holiday shoppers say they plan not to spend anything on gifts and services this holiday. That’s up from 4.9% in 2020 and 2.9% the previous year. It’s the highest in at least 10 years, according to Rod Sides, a vice chairman of Deloitte.

For those who don’t plan to spend, almost two-thirds make less than $50,000 a year, according to Deloitte. About one in eight of the non-spenders make $100,000 or more.

Their hardship may not show in nationwide spending numbers. The top 10% of earners make up nearly half of personal outlays in the U.S., according to calculations by Wells Fargo & Co. earlier this year."

Minnesota city bans hopscotch on city sidewalks

And not just hopscotch - all chalk art on sidewalks.  Details at the StarTribune:
Drawing a hopscotch board on a sidewalk or street in Anoka is now against the law — one of the ramifications of a new ordinance governing displays on city property recently passed by the City Council.

The ordinance regulates flags, murals, memorials, banners and even chalk art displayed on buildings, light posts, flagpoles, streets and sidewalks, parks and other city infrastructure. It's designed to allow the city to protect and maintain aesthetics of city-owned property...

Council members asked City Attorney Scott Baumgartner for advice in crafting the ordinance, wondering if there was room to allow certain types of chalk art, such as hopscotch boards.

Baumgartner advised adopting an all-or-none approach. Subjectivity in determining what is and not allowed could land the city in trouble. He cited federal precedent that allows cities to regulate the use of chalk art on sidewalks...

Rice said it is unfortunate the city needs an ordinance like this, but "it protects the integrity of the city, our community and our citizens and all of that from … more nonsense."
Reading between the lines, I suppose the ordinance is designed to prohibit chalk art on sidewalks supporting or dissing Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez et al, and the children's games are just friendly-fire casualties.  Very sad.

Rant by a university physics professor

Excerpts from his full-text letter published in Harper's:
This controversy started after I made a few statements in a meeting to the effect that I believe the pandemic is a stunt designed to enslave humanity. The end result will be that no one will be permitted to buy food in a supermarket unless they present proof of vaccination. This electronic certificate will take the form of injectable micro or nanotechnology. It will be a fulfillment of the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast, as described in the Book of Revelation...

It’s that I’m calling out the huge scientific frauds—Bill Nye, Buzz Aldrin, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Anthony Fauci are part of a system of lies. I also said “atom bombs are fake.” The footage of atomic bomb tests are just films of explosions of large piles of TNT, made to look bigger through special effects. These techniques were used in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The films of the Apollo moon landings were faked using the same bag of tricks. The sunlit surface of the moon is over 700° F, not 250° F, as NASA claims. That is why the moon glows red during a lunar eclipse—not because of refracted red light from Earth’s atmosphere, as Bill Nye and Neil Tyson would have you believe.

Now I have to address the tweets I made about Jews. I do not believe that middle-class Jews are involved in an international conspiracy, only that a small number of their elites are. The entire world has fallen under the spell of a satanic elite. Their end goal is a technocratic one-world government, where everyone, Jew and Gentile, will be microchipped. Lord have mercy on us all.


The longest dinosaur known to have lived.  No banana for scale in the image, but for football fans, the 128-foot length is more than four first-downs.  Extensive discussion at LiveScience.

BTW - it's not as long as the currently-living oceanic siphonophores.

Robert Wadlow with his normal-sized parents and siblings

Acromegalic.  8' 11" at his death (and was still growing at that time).  Biography.  Photo via.

13 November 2021

A timely quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“We know that they are lying, they know that they are lying, they even know that we know they are lying, we also know that they know we know they are lying too, they of course know that we certainly know they know we know they are lying too as well, but they are still lying. In our country, the lie has become not just moral category, but the pillar industry of this country.”
Timely when Solzhenitsyn was quoted in The Observer in 1974.  And timely now.

Fossilized Edmontosaurus Dinosaur Skin

Found in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, 5 1/2″ x 2 1/4″.  Listed (?sold) on eBay for $4,000 in 2018.  Details at Paleonews.

The immune function of red blood cells

That's a post title I could not have imagined writing back in the twentieth century, when everyone believed that RBCs were basically simple inert bags of hemoglobin.  We knew they had complement receptors and could be subject to immune attack, but not that they could serve a beneficial immuoregulatory function.  Now...
New research has revealed that red blood cells function as critical immune sensors by binding cell-free DNA, called nucleic acid, present in the body’s circulation during sepsis and COVID-19, and that this DNA-binding capability triggers their removal from circulation, driving inflammation and anemia during severe illness and playing a much larger role in the immune system than previously thought. 
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a class of proteins that play a key role in the immune system by activating immune responses like cytokine production. This study examined the red blood cells of about 50 sepsis patients and 100 COVID-19 patients and found that, during these illnesses, red blood cells express an increased amount of the specific TLR protein called TLR9 on their surface.

Basically, the circulating erythrocytes scavenge free DNA released into the bloodstream during cell injury and death.  Getting that material out of the blood is good for the host, but when the RBC gets coated with the scavenged DNA, it becomes subject to removal by macrophages in the spleen, leading to anemia.

I wasn't able to access the Science Translational Medicine source article.

You can now have your loved one's tat framed for posterity

The funeral home/crematory has 48-72 hours to contact us. NOTE: This does not mean the tattoo has to be removed within this time frame. We just  need to be notified. We will then send a recovery kit that contains all of the essential paperwork and materials for the recovery process for your loved one's tattoo(s). After  the recovery process is completed, the family can expect to receive their loved one's framed tattoo art within 3 months. Our framing artist will pair a frame to best suite the style of the tattoo, accompanied with museum quality UV glass. Pricing is based on the size of the tattoo.
Prices apparently start at $1,600 for a small tat in the insured "ink forever" plan.

12 November 2021

"Anti-woke" exchange-traded funds target Trump's base

Dan Grant is fed up with “wokeness.” He’s sick of such companies as Nike Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. taking liberal positions on social justice issues. “People are tired of woke companies, tired of wokeness overall, and tired of companies putting their social justice activism ahead of generating profits for their shareholders,” Grant says, sitting in a small Nashville office festooned with dinosaur fossils and a pet Australian snake-necked turtle named Melvin.

The former JPMorgan Chase & Co. banker is betting that the 74 million people who, like him, voted for Donald Trump are mad about it, too—mad enough to buy shares of his company’s exchange traded funds, which invest in companies Grant and his colleagues deem unwoke. That means they lean right politically or are at least neutral in their activism and donations. Grant is chief executive officer of 2ndVote Advisers, a small group of politically conservative money managers pushing against what they see as a stampede toward left-leaning, socially conscious investing on Wall Street...

In December, 2ndVote will launch an ETF perfectly attuned to the latest Trumpian cultural grievance: a “First Amendment fund” called the American Freedoms ETF. Composed of companies with permissive speech policies, the fund excludes platforms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, which the former president claims unfairly “censor” him. Grant insists the fund’s purpose isn’t political. Rather, it’s an expression of economist Milton Friedman’s dictum that a company’s sole responsibility is to make money. 
More at Bloomberg Business Week.  I can think of a half-dozen TYWKIWDBI readers who will undoubtedly be delighted to purchase shares in these ETFs.

Electile dysfunction

11 November 2021

Weighted workout clothing

Those little bumps on her top are weights, as explained in a Bloomberg story:
Former Nike Inc. executives are starting an athleticwear company that makes workout clothes heavier, instead of lightweight.

The company, called Omorpho, is making gym clothes with micro-weights built into the garments to provide more resistance while working out... 

“We think this is an entirely new category,” Olander said in an interview. “All the apparel that’s being built for sport is built for competition, but most people spend 1% of their time competing and 99% of their time preparing or training.”

Omorpho’s collection of shirts and leggings, called Gravity Sportswear, swerves away from a trend toward lighter garments used by companies like Nike, Adidas AG and Lululemon Athletica Inc. The concept is to load the clothes with resistance without affecting natural movements like a clunky vest or belt would.
I'm going to start looking for a heavier mouse.

Why some are now referring to the coronavirus as "red Covid"

The coronavirus pandemic initially manifested itself in the United States in "blue" (Democratic) districts - especially inner-city New York.   Some pundits have offered that fact as a reason for the then-Republican administration's slow response to the pandemic.  Skipping forward a year we find a quite different demographic pattern.
And as a result, current mortalilty rates from Covid are substantially higher in "red" states:

At the New York Times source, the data is broken down to the county level, where the differences are even more stark.  And it's getting worse:

There's additional discussion and graphs at the Gallup organization website.  They note that a large percentage of Americans frankly do not understand the risks of disease vs. vaccination.

Updated to add this graph (discussed here):

Interesting numbers

Data on U.S. traffic fatalities in 2020 shocked safety advocates: At a time when people were driving less, deaths jumped. In fact, they were higher last year than in any year since 2007.

And 2021 could be even worse. The federal government estimates that 20,160 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of this year. That’s an 18.4% increase from the same period in 2020...

Experts don’t know what’s causing the surge, but there are plenty of candidates. Since the pandemic began, people are speeding more and wearing seat belts less, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Vehicles are getting bigger. State lawmakers are making it legal to go faster. U.S. regulators have been less aggressive than those in other countries on vehicle safety requirements...

Another major concern is the vehicles themselves. For a half-century, the federal government’s main safety focus has been protecting the driver and other passengers inside the vehicle when it crashes. But that focus ignores the safety of whomever the vehicle is running into, such as passengers in another car or pedestrians, and that’s worrisome as the size of vehicles increases. Americans now buy about twice as many SUVs as sedans, a remarkable development considering that SUVs first outsold sedans in 2015. High school physics shows why that can be a problem: A vehicle’s force is its mass times its acceleration.

Both are increasing for new cars. The average weight of new vehicles hit 4,156 pounds in the 2019 model year, a record. The average power of vehicles set an all-time high that year (the most recent for which data are available) as well, climbing to 245 horsepower. Those trends are only going to increase as automakers roll out more electric vehicles, which are heavier and more powerful. 

More information at Bloomberg Businessweek.

It's true that there's no prize when you die... (updated)

... but I do keep track of all the books I've read.   I rate them on a scale of 0-4+, so that when I get old(er) and (more) demented, I'll know which ones to re-read.

For the past 25 years, here are the 92 books I've rated 4+ (to be honest, it also includes a fair number of 3.5s), out of a total of 700+.

1990 ( of 26)
The Bourne Identity

The Parsifal Mosaic
1991 (52)
Colin Watson
Hopjoy was Here

The Man Who Folded Himself

One Hundred Years of Solitude
1992 (63)
Salem Possessed

Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in 17th century Massachusetts.

The Damnation of Theron Ware

The Secret Pilgrim

Brother to Dragons

Childhood's End
1993 (39)
1994 (44)
1995 (38)
And So To Murder


The Jesus Conspiracy

Columbus Was Last

Norse Discoveries & Explorations in America 982-1362
1996 (28)
The Stars My Destination

A Maggot

The Big Sky
1997 (8)
1998 (13)
Into Thin Air

The Vikings and America
1999 (16)
The country of the Pointed Firs

Absalom Absalom (turgid and gloomy)

Hardy and Shaffer
The Wicker Man
2000 (4)
Teale, Edwin Way
A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm
2001 (8)
Ryan & Pittman
Noah's Flood


The Alban Quest
2002 (19)
2003 (36)
Angels and Demons

The Kite Runner

All the Kings Men
2004 (49)
1421 The Year China Discovered America

Bertie Wooster Sees It Through

Da Vinci Code

The True Believer
2005 (45)
The Mapmaker’s Wife

The Reason Why [Crimea, Light Brigade]

Naked to Mine Enemies, Volumes 1 and 2

Gag Rule.  On the suppression of dissent

Bring Out Your Dead
2006 (35)
Marley and Me

Confident Hope of a Miracle

A Pretext for War

Science and Civilisation in China, Vol IV: 3

The Looming Tower; Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
2007 (29)
Letter to a Christian Nation

The Thirteenth Tale

Overthrow. America’s Century of Regime Change (skimmed)

Planet Earth

The Island at the Center of the World [Manhattan]

The Road

When the Cheering Stopped

No Country for Old Men
2008 (30)
God is Not Great

The Deep

Ballesta & Deschamp
Planet Ocean

Let Me Stand Alone


Blood Meridian

Legacy of Ashes

Krakatoa; the Day the World Exploded

Last Shot
2009 (31)
How Jesus Became Christian

Misquoting Jesus


Society without God

The Smaller Majority (nature photos)
2010 (49)
An Instance of the Fingerpost

Paradise Found: Nature in America at the time of discovery

Van Allsburg
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

The Bourne Identity

The Fourth Part of the World

Heavenly Intrigue [Kepler and Brahe]

The Lost City of Z

The Age of Wonder

Over the Edge of the World [Magellan]
2011 (21)
Hard Road West


Winchester, Simon
The Alice Behind Wonderland

The Brendan Voyage

The Bippolo Seed and Other Stories

The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way

The Tree Army; a pictorial history of the CCC, 1933-1942
2012 (18)

Destiny of the Republic [bio James Garfield]

1434; The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy…

Blue Highways

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards
2013 (21)
Lost in the Taiga

Cloud Atlas

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet
2014 (21)
As I Lay Dying             

Sometimes I post reviews in the recommended books category of this blog.

Please feel free to chime in with a comment about your favorite books.

Addendum November 2021:

(can't remember how I created a table in the post 7 years ago, so I'll just copy/paste the updated info)
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