22 June 2022

Introducing "No Mow May" - with final update


The "No Mow May" movement began in the U.K. in 2019.  I first encountered the concept in a New York Times article last month, reporting on a No Mow May program in Appleton Wisconsin last spring.
Appleton, some 200 miles north of Chicago, is a small college city nestled on the shores of the meandering Fox River. Two assistant professors at a local liberal arts college, Dr. Israel Del Toro and Dr. Relena Ribbons of Lawrence University, knew that No Mow May was popular in Britain. They wondered if the initiative might take root here, too.

They began working with the Appleton Common Council, and, in 2020, Appleton became the first city in the United States to adopt No Mow May, with 435 homes registering to take part...

Dr. Del Toro and Dr. Ribbons studied the impacts of No Mow May on Appleton’s bees. They found that No Mow May lawns had five times the number of bees and three times the bee species than did mown parks. Armed with this information, they asked other communities to participate.

By 2021, a dozen communities across Wisconsin had adopted No Mow May. It also spread to communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Montana.

I learned about No Mow May in the fall of 2020 when I was looking to make my own yard more friendly to bees. The following spring, I helped organize No Mow May in Shorewood Hills, Wis., where I live. When I realized how quickly the movement was spreading, I started photographing it across Wisconsin...

Not everyone appreciated the unmown lawns. Allison Roberts, a resident of Prairie du Chien, Wis., participated in No Mow May even though her city hadn’t adopted it. After a few weeks, she awoke from a nap to find police officers pounding on her door.

“Apparently, they were here to ensure I was not dead,” she said.

Nor were her neighbors happy with her shaggy lawn. One of them, unable to stand the sight of it, eventually mowed it without her permission.
The concept was embraced by the Madison suburb of Verona last year.
"Such rules don’t mandate that you let your weeds and grass go shaggy in May, but municipalities simply won’t punish residents who choose to let their lawns go. By June 1, enforcement of lawn length generally resumes, and residents will be required to keep those lawns nice and tidy once again."
In England, a variety of rare plants popped up in some residents' yards:
People who chose not to mow were rewarded with rare plants. More than 250 wild plant species were recorded by gardeners last year, including wild strawberry, wild garlic and very rare plants including adder’s-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snakeshead fritillary and eyebright. Many orchids were also seen, including the declining ​man orchid, green-winged orchid, southern and northern marsh orchid and bee orchid.
The StarTribune reports the concept is widespread in Minnesota:
In addition to Edina, Monticello, Vadnais Heights and New Brighton are among the Minnesota cities participating in No Mow May for the first time. Those municipalities will not enforce city codes that restrict lawns from exceeding a maximum turf length (10 inches in Edina and Vadnais Heights, 8 inches in Monticello and New Brighton) during the month of May... ""The best part about it is it doesn't cost anything to do it and it makes such a big difference."
The Arboretum here at the University of Wisconsin in Madison notes that dandelions play a beneficial role in the health of lawn turf:
Dandelion (Taxaracum officinale) is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout most of North America. The flowers are visited by many pollinators and are an important nectar source early in the season when few other flowers are blooming. Their deep taproots help to loosen and aerate soil as well as pull nutrients like calcium from deep in the soil, which makes the nutrients available to other plants once dandelion leaves decompose. Several bird species also eat dandelion flowers, buds, and seeds.
I found the two embedded lawn sign images online, and since they don't appear to be copyrighted, I took the liberty of printing them out.  Tomorrow I'll attach them to a lawn sign in our front yard to let our neighbors know why the grass is getting long.  And I'll try to update this post from time to time to show what the lawn looks like and how the local bee population is doing.


Addendum May 17:
We are now halfway through the no-mow month, so I thought I'd append a few pix to show how things are going.  Our south-facing front yard has clearly grown past the normal mow height, but doesn't look particularly shabby -


The sign is out by the road to inform passers-by, but to the casual viewer, it looks like a lazy person's home.  There is one clump of post-blossom daffodil leaves (intentionally planted there years ago) and a smattering of dandelions, plus some smaller weeds that I'll inventory toward the end of the month.  One no-mow neighbor has a greater abundance of dandelions -


- and on another unmown lawn the dandelions are almost confluent:


One difference may be that in previous years I have routinely added a commercial "weed and feed" application once or twice a year to eliminate broad-leaf plants like creeping charlie.  The flora is a bit different in the north-facing semishaded back lawn, where violets are appearing -


- along with ajuga and creeping charlie.   More info in a week or two.

Addendum and closure:

More violets.  Wisconsin has fourteen species of native violets, and while they are certainly lovely and beneficial to pollinators, some varieties are extremely aggressive; we have to extirpate them from some flower beds, where they crowd out other plantings.


Milkweeds always have shown up in our lawn because we have them in the flower beds, and the rhizomes extend outward in every direction.  Normally these spikes succumb to mowing; this year they get a reprieve of a few weeks.


This is the front lawn on May 23, after three weeks of not being mowed.  Shaggy, but not overtly offensive to the more conventional neighbors.


In contrast, this lawn that I drove past elsewhere in town is dominated by dandelions going to seed.  We have dandelions too, but when the yellow blossoms close, we walk around and "deadhead" the plants, pulling off what would become the seedhead,  because our goal is to feed the pollinators, not the fructivores eating seeds.


So as May came to a close we had lots of the usual clover -


- plus a variety of smaller "weeds" whose names I haven't taken time to look up:



The "escaped" milkweeds have not been of benefit to pollinators because they blossom in late June.  But they have been there for the arriving Monarchs, so the day before the neighbor teen came over to mow, we harvested all these milkweed to look for Monarch eggs and early instars. 


One of our next-door neighbors also had opted to pursue a no-mow policy in May.
For those worried about how to mow grass that is over a foot tall, I'll point out that the blades of grass are still only maybe 3-5" tall.  What towers above them is the seedhead on a tall thin spike.  At this point the seeds were not mature enough to actually fall and overseed the lawn, and those seedheads are no impediment to a standard home power mower.


The main front yard.  I don't consider it unattractive, though it is obviously unconventional.  I enjoyed being outside working on a windy day and watching the "amber fields of grain" waving in the wind.  


After mowing, June 6.  Back to a standard suburban cookie-cutter boring monoculture of grass.  No worse for the experiment, and if anything the grass seems to me to be a bit more lush


We'll be doing this again next year.   I encourage others to do the same.

21 June 2022

Sand from various sites in the Sahara


At the via, commenters argue as to whether it's really a makeup palette.

Shrinkflation and price dripping

Anyone old enough to remember previous eras of inflation will be familiar with the "shrinkflation" of products:
From toilet paper to yogurt and coffee to corn chips, manufacturers are quietly shrinking package sizes without lowering prices. It's dubbed "shrinkflation," and it's accelerating worldwide.

In the U.S., a small box of Kleenex now has 60 tissues; a few months ago, it had 65. Chobani Flips yogurts have shrunk from 5.3 ounces to 4.5 ounces. In the U.K., Nestle slimmed down its Nescafe Azera Americano coffee tins from 100 grams to 90 grams. In India, a bar of Vim dish soap has shrunk from 155 grams to 135 grams...

Dworsky began noticing smaller boxes in the cereal aisle last fall, and shrinkflation has ballooned from there. He can cite dozens of examples, from Cottonelle Ultra Clean Care toilet paper, which has shrunk from 340 sheets per roll to 312, to Folgers coffee, which downsized its 51-ounce container to 43.5 ounces but still says it will make up to 400 cups. (Folgers says it's using a new technology that results in lighter-weight beans.)

Dworsky said shrinkflation appeals to manufacturers because they know customers will notice price increases but won't keep track of net weights or small details, like the number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper. Companies can also employ tricks to draw attention away from downsizing, like marking smaller packages with bright new labels that draw shoppers' eyes.

That's what Fritos did. Bags of Fritos Scoops marked "Party Size" used to be 18 ounces; some are still on sale at a grocery chain in Texas. But almost every other big chain is now advertising "Party Size" Fritos Scoops that are 15.5 ounces — and more expensive.
In the service economy, the counterpart is "price dripping" (or "drip pricing"):
Welcome to the hidden-cost economy, where sneaky fees are lurking everywhere, whether you’re buying concert tickets or plunking down your credit card at a bar, making everything much more expensive than they initially appear. It’s a retail strategy known as “price dripping.” Brands reel buyers in with a misleadingly low headline price before “dripping” an extra charge on top during the purchasing process...

Restaurants are adding “kitchen appreciation” fees, and both airlines and Uber began implementing fuel charges as oil prices skyrocket.
 
“Inflation has made the costs of raw materials more expensive,” Ching says. “But businesses are worried that if they raise the retail prices, that would upset consumers. Drip pricing is a ‘hidden’ way to raise prices.”... hidden costs that, in some cases, add up to more than the original price of the service or good... screenshot of an Airbnb charge that included $307.17 in cleaning, service, and occupancy fees—more than the $189 it costs to stay in the vacation rental for a single night.
The story continues at Fortune.

Cassini's final images of Saturn

"Flat closure" after mastectomy

... [there are] Facebook groups with names such as “Not Putting on a Shirt” and “Flat and Fabulous” that included many hundreds of women’s happy stories — and photos — about their choice to have an “aesthetic flat closure,’’ the term used by the National Cancer Institute starting in 2020, and forgo breast reconstruction.

So Attai did her own survey of close to 1,000 women who’d had a single or double mastectomy without reconstruction. Published last year in Annals of Surgical Oncology, it found that close to three-quarters of the women said they were satisfied with the outcome... 

While many women still opt for breast reconstruction, as the numbers from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons make clear, Champagne and others engaged with the issue of flat closure tick off a list of reasons, including increased awareness of the option, for what cancer doctors and surgeons say is a growing interest in going flat...

“A breast cancer diagnosis can be particularly overwhelming because there are so many decisions to be made in a short period of time including choices of doctors, a treatment plan and the woman’s post-mastectomy chest,” says Attai, in an email. There’s more awareness now that the process of reconstruction has risks. “Women who opt for reconstruction, whether a breast implant or their own tissue (called autologous reconstruction) could face multiple surgeries, post-surgery recovery, a 10 percent risk of infection which can get in the way of a chemotherapy or radiation schedule, and, occasionally, implant recalls and removals.

For women who want to do reconstruction, Attai says, they often feel the effort and risk is worth it. “But for others, it isn’t.”
More information at The Washington Post.

20 June 2022

Peecycling

Human urine... is full of the same nutrients that plants need to flourish. It has a lot more, in fact, than Number Two, with almost none of the pathogens...

At first, collecting their urine in a jug was “a little sloshy,” Ms. Lucy said. But she was a nurse and he was a preschool teacher; pee didn’t scare them. They went from dropping off a couple of containers every week or so at an organizer’s home to installing large tanks at their own house that get professionally pumped out...

Toilets, in fact, are by far the largest source of water use inside homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Wiser management could save vast amounts of water, an urgent need as climate change worsens drought in places like the American West...

Chemical fertilizer is far from sustainable. The commercial production of ammonia, which is mainly used for fertilizer, uses fossil fuels in two ways. First, as the source of hydrogen, which is needed for the chemical process that converts nitrogen from the air into ammonia, and second as fuel to generate the intense heat required. By one estimate, ammonia manufacturing contributes 1 to 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. Phosphorus, another key nutrient, is mined from rock, with an ever dwindling supply.
More info at the New York Times.

Two podcasts worth listening to

First, from This American Life, the story of The Synchronized Swimmers.
At the age of 17, competitive swimmer Lynne Cox had already accomplished a lot in the open ocean. She’d set two world records crossing the English Channel. But it wasn’t until a practice swim one morning that year in California that she did something we’d never heard of any human doing in the water. Phoebe Judge, host of the “This Is Love” podcast, tells her story. (14 minutes)
Next, part of a Radiolab episode entitled Animal Minds.  The story starts at the 5:30 mark and ends at the 17-minute mark.  It's quite memorable.  (I would suggest ignoring the subsequent interview with some animal psychologist who seems to say there's no way we can understand what a whale is thinking).

18 June 2022

First black swallowtails of the year



This one eclosed late this afternoon; when I photographed him, he was still fanning his wings to dry and stiffen them. (Males are characterized by prominence of the yellow pattern on the forewing and subtlety of the blue spots on the hindwing above the eyespots).

This one is a little small in body size, as is typical for the late-season ones which overwinter here as a chrysalis (the caterpillars often don't get very fat in the fall before the cold weather forces them to pupate), but the outstanding beauty of the wings is wonderfully characteristic of the species - click to enlarge to bigger-than-screen size.

He will spend the night on our screen porch, then warm himself in the sunshine before heading out for whatever adventures await. Five more chrysalids from last autumn's batch are still waiting to hatch.

Reposted from last month to add a photo of the latest one to eclose:


The color patter on the underside of the wings is truly remarkable and not usually visible when you see them soaring around your garden.

Can you see the hidden tiger in this image?


It might help to zoom.  Out. 

Via for the image (and the answer) is at Neatorama.

The case of the little brown dot

I was recently asked by a friend to check their back for a possible tick.  I saw a tiny round dot without legs and said I think this is a scab.  It came off easily.  But they said there was no reason for them to have a scab back there, so I put the dot under a digital microscope, which showed that the reason there were no apparent legs was that the legs were curled up under the body:


And the reason it was round was that... there was no head.

So the microscope goes back on my friend's back and sure enough - there was the head - still embedded in the skin.  There followed a prolonged debridement with available tools - a needle and alcohol wipes - with eventually satisfactory results.

The diameter was only about 3-4 mm, so this was probably a nymph.  The attachment had been only for a matter of hours, so the risk of Lyme was negligible.  Still it was a bit unsettling...

Grilled romaine lettuce

How then to explain the current popularity of greens that have first been grilled? There’s no clear origin story; the practice didn’t go viral on TikTok. And yet charred salads are turning up on menus across the country. Most versions plate the salad wedge-style to be cut with a knife, rather than use a bowl, but the dishes can take many forms...

The key to a successful grilled salad, says Feges chef, owner, and general partner Erin Smith, is to find the right lettuce. “The greens that have been successful are the ones that hold their shape,” she says. “Like romaine, even radicchio. You wouldn’t want to grill a spinach salad.”

The other cardinal rule, Smith says, is to let the greens cool: “People might want a grilled salad, but they don’t want hot lettuce.”
Details, variations, and pix at Bloomberg.

I can't even...

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Geico could be required to pay a Missouri woman $5.2 million because she said she contracted a sexually transmitted disease while having sex in the car of a man who is insured by the company...

According to court documents, the woman, identified as M.O., and a man, who were in a relationship, had sex in the man’s car. She contends she contracted HPV, human papillomavirus, because the man did not tell her he had the disease. HPV can cause cervical cancer, certain other cancers and genital warts.

In February 2021, M.O. notified Geico she planned to seek a $1 million insurance settlement against the man. She argued the man’s auto insurance provided coverage for her injuries and losses.

The insurance company refused the settlement offer, saying the woman’s claim did not occur because of normal use of the vehicle, according to court documents...

An arbitrator eventually determined she should be awarded $5.2 million for damages and her injuries.
Via AP News.

Westworld simplified


I thought about each panel in sequence, then laughed when I finally got to the final one, because I totally enjoyed the Westworld TV series, but before it was over I too was resorting to some recreational beverages.

Some discussion at the via.

Reposted from 2018 to add the official trailer for the upcoming Season 4:


I'm willing to give the series another chance.  

Addendum:  Found this "recap" of the first three seasons -


I'm still confused.  But it's such a visual treat.  And I am entranced by the implied storyline:  the robots love the world, humans are screwing up the world, so what should the robots do about that...?

"Ditch ducks" explained - and updated



I first discovered and blogged about a drainage ditch with duck decoys (Google Maps location) back in 2018, then wrote a followup post in 2019.  After a pandemic year interval, I headed north again this month, and found a huge increase in the number of painted decoys (photo above).

There was no town nearby in which to make inquiries, so I had to wait until getting back from my vacation - but then I was rewarded with the discovery of a Minnesota television station's report on this phenomenon.  The video is done in the style of Steve Hartman's "On the Road" segments for CBS News.  This turns out not to be an "art installation" - let's just call it a "whimsy."

I'm creating this post first so that it will be the last one you encounter on your visit to TYWKIWDBI today, and I invite you to take 3 minutes to watch this video report.  I guarantee it will be the most cheerful item you encounter on the internet today.


Addendum 2021:  I stopped to visit the ditch ducks on my way north last week.  Looks like there are a couple more than last year -


It's one of the high points on my trip, and a cheerful sight - especially when you know the backstory in the video.

07 June 2022

I'm on vacation for the next week


Family activities take precedence every June.  I'll use this opportunity to remind everyone that while I'm gone you can browse the archive of 17,885 old posts linked in the right sidebar, sorted by publication date and by topic.

Actias Luna


This Luna moth eclosed from his pupa this week after spending the winter on our unheated screen porch.  Luna moth caterpillars feed on tree leaves (birch, hickory, walnut, and persimmon), and the cocoons fall to the ground when the leaves do.  I added a wire grid to the terrarium so the moth would have an easy way to climb out of the litter to let the wings expand and harden.  During the winter and early spring I misted the cocoon/pupa with water whenever it was snowing or raining so that the little critter wouldn't dehydrate.

Note that fat little belly.  Luna moths have only  vestigial mouthparts, do not drink nectar or any other food.  They can live only so long as that fat stored in their abdomen lasts.  So the adult moth is on an urgent mission to mate ASAP.


Here's the dorsal view after I transferred him to the porch screen to get some sun.  That this is a male is evidenced by the elaborate antennae -


- capable of detecting single pheromone molecules in the air.  He can then somehow navigate the increasing concentrations of molecules upwind to locate females several miles away.

The delicate double "tail" is not aerodynamically necessary; some have postulated that it serves to confuse the echolocation abilities of bats, to whom a fat-belliled Luna moth is just a big flying Oreo cookie. 

Remembering the Metropolitan Blues All Stars


When I lived in Kentucky in the 1980s,  I had several opportunities to hear the Metropolitan Blues All Stars perform.  The group members came from in the hills of Eastern Kentucky; they came to Lexington for concert performances (or to Louisville for Lonesome Pine Specials as in the 1987 one embedded above).

I particularly remember Rodney Hatfield's prolonged harmonica riffs, and I have an old VCR tape with Caroline Dahl really rocking the keyboard; I understand she later moved on to San Francisco for a successful career there.  Here's her Boogie Woogie Piano with the Metropolitan Blues All Stars, recorded in 2007 (here's another boogie woogie performance, with Tom Rigney and Flambeau in 2007).  Is boogie woogie still popular? (I don't know - don't get out much)

I wonder if any other readers here remember the group.  Miss C?

After some internet searching, I discovered Rodney Hatfield playing with a group called Tin Can Buddha (profiled in this KET recording).

Reposted from 2017 to embed the harmonica riff linked above:

Fears of "needle spiking" in Europe

 LONDON — She had eagerly looked forward to going home for the holidays and reuniting with friends over dinner and drinks. Instead, Eva Keeling, 19, says, she wound up injected by a stranger with a needle, leaving her unable to speak or function while at a bar in her hometown of Stafford, in northern England.

“We went outside [the bar] for some fresh air … then I ended up losing all control of my body, the ability to walk, hold my head up, I couldn’t talk — I was projectile vomiting everywhere,” Keeling told The Washington Post. 

Days after her April night out, she still felt ill and, while getting dressed, noticed her arm was swollen. Feeling “petrified,” she rushed to a hospital for blood tests and was screened for diseases such as HIV. Doctors informed her she’d been injected with a “dirty needle,” causing the infection and swelling.

Keeling is one of hundreds of people across Britain and Europe who have been victims of suspected “needle spiking” — an injection administered without consent or knowledge, often in a bar or nightclub setting, in an attack similar to the more common crime of contaminating alcoholic drinks...

French police have received more than 300 complaints of injections in various regions since the end of March but have not made arrests, according to local media reports...

“It’s a really difficult crime,” she said. Possible motives could include assault, rape, human trafficking or even personal vendettas, she added.
Continued at The Washington Post.

Addendum:  See the informed commentary by reader Benjamin in the Comments section, and the links at this Wikipedia entry.

06 June 2022

Circumhorizontal arc


Colloquially known as a "fire rainbow."  This one hovered over Madison, Wisconsin yesterday.  It had more vivid coloration a minute before I was able to take the photo, and it faded from view a couple minutes later.

A truly Python-esque idea


Related: Graham Chapman's memorial service

"Plastic recycling will never work"

Excerpts from an Atlantic article written by a former EPA administrator and a chemical engineer:
"Although some materials can be effectively recycled and safely made from recycled content, plastics cannot. Plastic recycling does not work and will never work...

The first problem is that there are thousands of different plastics, each with its own composition and characteristics. They all include different chemical additives and colorants that cannot be recycled together, making it impossible to sort the trillions of pieces of plastics into separate types for processing...

Just one fast-food meal can involve many different types of single-use plastic, including PET#1, HDPE#2, LDPE#4, PP#5, and PS#6 cups, lids, clamshells, trays, bags, and cutlery, which cannot be recycled together. This is one of several reasons why plastic fast-food service items cannot be legitimately claimed as recyclable in the U.S...

Unlike metal and glass, plastics are not inert. Plastic products can include toxic additives and absorb chemicals, and are generally collected in curbside bins filled with possibly dangerous materials such as plastic pesticide containers...

Yet another problem is that plastic recycling is simply not economical...

Despite this stark failure, the plastics industry has waged a decades-long campaign to perpetuate the myth that the material is recyclable. This campaign is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s efforts to convince smokers that filtered cigarettes are healthier than unfiltered cigarettes...

If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling. Although we may not be able to stop them from trying to fool us, we can pass effective laws to make real progress. Single-use-plastic bans reduce waste, save taxpayer money spent on disposal and cleanup, and reduce plastic pollution in the environment.

Consumers can put pressure on companies to stop filling store shelves with single-use plastics by not buying them and instead choosing reusables and products in better packaging. And we should all keep recycling our paper, boxes, cans, and glass, because that actually works.

Most expensive car in the world

On May 5, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe sold for $142 million during an auction at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. It was the highest price ever paid for a car at auction, soundly beating the eight-figure Ferrari sales that had long topped the blue-chip billing.
Interesting that the exhaust pipes are right next to the passenger door.

Some additional details at Bloomberg, where the discussion is mostly about how (and whether) to insure a car like this.

Posted for Jesse to consider adding to the 50,000 posts at Just A Car Guy.

04 June 2022

Good book to take on a picnic


E. O. Wilson was arguably the world's leading authority on ants.  He authored thirty books (with two Pulitzer prizes), so when I saw this most recent one on our library's new acquisitions list, I immediately clicked to be put on the waiting list.  

This book was written for the general public, assembling a couple dozen stories to describe his personal and professional life.  Lots of interesting factoids:
"In the Brazilian rain forests [ants] make up an astonishing three-quarters of the insect biomass and more than one-quarter of the entire animal biomass."

"In 1955, early in my career as a field biologist, I had managed to identify about 175 ant species in a square kilometer of lowland rain forest in Papua New Gjuinea.  This I believed likely to last as a world record.  Not so.  In later years, twice that number, 355, were collected by Stefan Cover and John Tobin at a single locality in the Amazon."

"The mother queen, when inseminated by several males during the nuptial flights, receives 200 to 300 million sperm cells.  These she stores in her spermatheca.  She pays out sperm cells one by one from the spermatheca during her lifetime of ten to fifteen years.  In this time, she gives birth to as many as 150 million to 200 million workers - half the size of the human population of the United States."
Lots more.  And an easy, pleasant read, sitting on your blanket by the lake. 

It's called "docking"


I can remember watching my mom do this to a pie crust, but I never knew there was a specific word for it.  I can't quite suss out how this is related to the other definitions of "dock" (listed but not explained at Etymology 6 of the verb form of dock).

This story has a happy ending

Cassandra Ridder was crushed when her 12-year-old son Brody came home from school last week with only a few signatures in his yearbook — including his own.

“Hope you make some more friends. — Brody Ridder,” the rising seventh-grader wrote in his own yearbook, which was signed by only two classmates, two teachers and himself...
The story at the link will make your day a little brighter.

Caption contest


 Photo credit Danny Lawson/PA.  Backstory at The Guardian.

Modern-day tree foliage


Unutterably sad, IMHO.  Photo credit Rodrigo Abd/AP, via.

02 June 2022

Omarolluk


I remember finding stones similar to this on the shores of Leech Lake in northern Minnesota when I was a child.  It took 70 years for me to now discover that this is an omarolluk.
Omarolluks, sometimes shortened to omars, are a distinctive type of glacial erratic that consists of dark siliceous greywacke and exhibits prominent rounded, often deep, hemispherical voids and pits. The hemispherical voids and pits result from the selective dissolution of carbonate concretions within the greywacke... 

Their rounded shape, whether found in glacial tills or glacial-fluvial (outwash) gravels, indicate that they were eroded from pre-existing littoral or fluvial deposits. Omars are typically found associated with granules and pebbles of oolitic jasper that were transported from the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay, Canada...

... named after Omarolluk, an Inuit man who accompanied and guided R. J. Flaherty on numerous geological surveys of the Belcher Islands and elsewhere in the Canadian north.

With a tip of the hat to the readers of the whatsthisrock subreddit. 

Remember when the U.S. cracked down on mass shootings?


I had forgotten.  An article in the Washington Post reminded me -
They were the mass shooters of their day, and all of America knew their names: John “the Killer” Dillinger, Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Bonnie and Clyde, George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

In the 1930s, the violence by the notorious gangsters was fueled by Thompson submachine guns, or Tommy guns, that fired up to 600 rounds in a minute. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pressing Congress to act on his “New Deal for Crime,” specifically a bill officially called the National Firearms Act of 1934. Informally, it was known as the “Anti-Machine Gun Bill.”..

By 1934, more than two dozen states passed gun-control laws. West Virginia required gun owners to be bonded and licensed. Michigan mandated that the police approve gun buyers. Texas banned machine guns...

A machine gun, of course, ought never to be in the hands of any private individual,” Attorney General Homer Cummings said at a House hearing. “There is not the slightest excuse for it, not the least in the world, and we must, if we are going to be successful in this effort to suppress crime in America, take these machine guns out of the hands of the criminal class.”..

The NRA gave qualified support to the proposed law...

The NRA and groups representing hunters opposed extending the tax to pistols and revolvers. “It is a fact which cannot be refuted that a pistol or revolver in the hands of a man or woman who knows how to use it is one thing which makes the smallest man or the weakest woman the equal of the burliest thug,” argued Milton Reckord, the NRA’s executive vice president. But as for a bill limited to machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, he said, “We will go along with such a bill as that.”
The embedded image is a screencap from an anguished video at this tweet (with a hat tip to reader Lyle).

BTW, there have been at least fifteen more mass shootings since the one at Uvalde last week.   Over the Memorial Day weekend, basically.  How fucked up is it that Americans take guns to holiday gatherings?

Note:
Around 19.8 million AR-15 style rifles are in circulation in the US, a nationwide tally that's surged from around 8.5 million since a federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.

The more recent estimate comes from a November 2020 statement by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In the statement, its President and CEO Joseph Bartozzi called the AR-15 the "most popular rifle sold in America" and a "commonly-owned firearm."

"Zombie corporations" explained

"They are creations of easy credit, beneficiaries of central bank largesse. And now that the era of unconventional monetary policy is over, they’re facing a challenge like never before. 

They are America’s corporate zombies, companies that aren’t earning enough to cover their interest expenses, let alone turn a profit. From meme-stock favorite AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. to household names such as American Airlines Group Inc. and Carnival Corp., their ranks have swelled in recent years, comprising roughly a fifth of the country’s 3,000 largest publicly-traded companies and accounting for about $900 billion of debt.

Now, some say, their time may be running short.

Firms that could once count on virtually unfettered access to the bond and loan markets to stay afloat are being turned away as investors girding for a recession close the spigot to all but the most creditworthy issuers. The fortunate few that can still find willing lenders face significantly higher borrowing costs as the Federal Reserve raises interest rates to tame inflation of more than 8%. With surging input costs poised to eat away at earnings, it’s left a broad swath of corporate America with little margin for error.

The end result could be a prolonged stretch of bankruptcies unlike any in recent memory."

Pasties are now... outerwear?

It has been 21 years since Sex and the City’s Samantha Jones uttered the words “nipples are huge right now” – yet here we are again. This time, though, nipples are so huge as to be worthy of adornment. “Pasties” – self-adhesive nipple covers usually worn under clothes in lieu of a bra – are being worn proudly, in metallics rather than muted tones, as part of an outfit rather than behind-the-scenes staging.

They have, in fashion circles, gone the way of lingerie: underwear as outerwear, the externalisation of something that was once meant to be concealed. Pasties are no longer sharing space with hidden necessities, such as boob tape or bunion insoles; instead, they are the stars of the show...

“The fashion for pasties on the red carpet is not entirely unprecedented,” says Sarah Thornton, the author of Uplifting Sagas: The Top Half of Women’s Liberation. “The pasty arose with burlesque as a commercial form of bare-breasted entertainment. There was no widespread need for them before that. Also, the availability of easy, cheap, gentle adhesives was a necessary precursor – hence their name, which derives from the word ‘paste’.“The burlesque cliche is that they are ‘boob jewellery’. They draw attention to nipples as much as they mask them. When I think of the history of pasties, I see red satin, sequins, rhinestones, diamantes, silk tassels.” In this way, their latest incarnation is more in line with their burlesque backstory than their more recent deployment to hide nipples.
Continued at The Guardian.

30 May 2022

"Meteor storm" (didn't happen)

Astronomers are reporting that there’s a chance that a “meteor storm” could occur on the night of Memorial Day. It probably won’t happen, but if it does, the display could be absolutely otherworldly... Meteor storms result when Earth enters an unusually dense and intense clustering of interplanetary debris — akin to driving through a swarm of bugs on the highway...

Meteor rates could range between one and 1,000 meteors per hour. If a meteor storm occurs, it would only last for perhaps an hour or two, and probably less... Astronomers have pinpointed the most likely time for the peak of whatever display may or may not transpire to be around 1 a.m. Eastern time Monday night/Tuesday morning. The shower’s “radiant” point, or the part of the sky from which meteors appear to emanate, will be high in the sky over North America at that time, so there’s no specific place in the sky to look...

A meteor storm came in 1966, igniting an equally splendid fireworks show in the United States. Eyewitness Christine Downing, who drove north of Mojave, Calif., saw a couple of shooting stars every five minutes, which “at the time … seemed extraordinary.” At 12:30 a.m., it began “raining stars,” and by 2 a.m. “it was a ‘blizzard.’ ”

Her description, which can be read in full on a NASA Web page, is one of many from that night. “There was the unnerving feeling that the mountains were being set on fire,” Downing wrote. “Falling stars filled the entire sky to the horizon, yet it was silent.”
More info and historic reports at The Washington Post.

Addendum:  no storm - not even a decent shower.

In memoriam, Lieut. L. Stanley Finseth, 1920-1943


Born Jan 31, 1920 and raised on the family farm at Kenyon, MN, my uncle Levi Stanley Finseth graduated from Byron High School in 1938. He then enrolled at St. Olaf college and later enlisted in the Air Force in 1942. As navigator of a bomber crew he flew 35 missions in North Africa, but died with his crew when their plane was brought down by a combination of enemy action and friendly fire over Switzerland on October 1, 1943.

Memorial gifts in his honor were directed to St. Olaf's WCAL, the first listener-supported public radio station. In 1946, when I was born, my parents named me after him.

Reposted from 2013 for Memorial Day, 2022, with the addition of a couple other photos from the archives:


Levi Stanley (identified as "baby"), next to my mother and the oldest sister Ona on their farm in 1921.  They will come of age in the Great Depression of the 1930s, then do their parts for their country in WWII.


Standing next to his proud parents, Knute Olaus and Selma, as he goes to St. Olaf College.  Knute Olaus' father was one of the Norwegian immigrant farmers who contributed funds to purchase the land in Northfield for the establishment of the college.


A portrait from those college years, which were interrupted by the onset of the war.


At a Chicago airport, visiting family on a stopover during his deployment. 


The obituary prepared by his family for St. Olaf and the local paper.  Such a waste - as all wartime deaths are.
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