28 February 2022

Comfy chair

Image cropped for size from the original at the Awful Taste but Great Execution subreddit.

The best book about the Shakespeare authorship controversy

In the Shakespeare section of TWYKIWDBI, I've alluded several times to my belief that the true author of "Shakespeare's" works is not the man from Stratford, but rather Edward deVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  I came to that conclusion decades ago after attending a lecture on the authorship question.
Shakespeare's authorship was first questioned in the middle of the 19th century, when adulation of Shakespeare as the greatest writer of all time had become widespread. Shakespeare's biography, particularly his humble origins and obscure life, seemed incompatible with his poetic eminence and his reputation for genius, arousing suspicion that Shakespeare might not have written the works attributed to him. The controversy has since spawned a vast body of literature, and more than 80 authorship candidates have been proposed, the most popular being Sir Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford; Christopher Marlowe; and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.
Since then I've done quite a bit of reading on the subject.  At the top of this post I've embedded a scan of the cover of what I consider to be the best and most objective treatment of the subject.  I was disappointed that the author was not an "Oxfordian."  On the contrary, he approaches the controversy methodically and thoroughly, as one can see from this table of contents:

I'll offer some excerpts from the book in the months ahead when I have more time.  For now I'll just present this info on the book for those with an interest in the subject.  It should be available in your local library.

Coin purse

Transcript from the Apollo 10 mission

From the Twitter thread of the elves at Quite Interesting.

Three new words in one paragraph

"In some ways, Stewart was the last person one might expect to find immersed in acts of gonzo fieldwork. He was a tweedy, lifelong academic, known to many today as the author of Names on the Land, a charming, if sometimes inaccurate, encyclopedia of American toponyms. Yet the research for his work—which spanned evolutionary science, science fiction, thrillers, Civil War history, educational history, literary theory, onomastics (the study of names), and hodology (the study of roads)—tended to involve a degree of reckless abandon."
Found in a book review in Harper's Magazine.

Toponym.  A place name (back-formation from toponymy).  And from that microtoponomy (nomenclature of small places like fields or sections of forests).  Derived from the Greek components.

Onomastics.  The branch of lexicology devoted to the study of names and naming, especially the origins of names.  From the French onomastique.

Hodology.  The study of pathways or interconnected ideas, including the study of connections between brain cells.  From the Greek hodós, “path, road, way; journey.”  Related word: odometer (you learn something every day).

Addendum:  see the Comments re endonyms vs. exonyms.

"Have some sunflower seeds"

A civilian woman confronted a heavily armed Russian soldier and offered him sunflower seeds... so that flowers will grow where he dies on Ukrainian soil.

The rest of her rant is recorded in this brief video (caution: profanity).

Relevant:  Just learned that sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine.

25 February 2022

"The narcissism of small differences" explained

Late in Democracy in America, in a chapter lavishly titled “Why the National Vanity of the Americans is More Restless and Quarrelsome than That of the English,” Tocqueville observes that national pride in public affairs takes on the social character of the upper classes:

In aristocratic countries, great men possess extensive privileges to sustain their pride without any need to rely upon those smaller advantages which accrue to them. Those privileges, having reached them through inheritance, are regarded to some extent as a part of themselves or, at least, as a natural and inherent right. They have, therefore, a quiet sense of their own superiority; they have no thought of boasting about privileges obvious to everyone and denied by no one.

On the other hand, in more democratic states, “when class distinctions are not very great, the smallest advantages gain in importance,” he continues. “Pride becomes demanding and jealous; it latches on to wretched details and guards them stubbornly.” A quarter century before the birth of Freud, Tocqueville identified the narcissism of small differences.
More at the linked Harper's essay.  See also the Wikipedia entry, and this awesome National Post essay by Christopher Hitchens:
In numerous cases of apparently ethno-nationalist conflict, the deepest hatreds are manifested between people who — to most outward appearances — exhibit very few significant distinctions... The partition of India and Pakistan, for example, which gives us one of the longest-standing and most toxic confrontations extant, involved most of all the partition of the Punjab. Visit Punjab and see if you can detect the remotest difference in people on either side of the border. Language, literature, ethnic heritage, physical appearance — virtually indistinguishable. Here it is mainly religion that symbolizes the narcissism and makes the most of the least discrepancy.

I used to work in Northern Ireland, where religion is by no means a minor business either, and at first couldn’t tell by looking whether someone was Catholic or Protestant. After a while, I thought I could guess with a fair degree of accuracy, but most of the inhabitants of Belfast seemed able to do it by some kind of instinct. There is a small underlay of ethnic difference there, with the original Gaels being a little darker and smaller than the blonder Scots who were imported as settlers, but to the outsider it is impalpable. It’s just that it’s the dominant question locally.

Likewise in Cyprus, it is extremely hard to tell a Greek from a Turk... In his book The Warrior’s Honor, Michael Ignatieff spent some time trying to elucidate what it was that made soldiers in the Balkan Wars — physically indistinguishable from one another — so eager to inflict cruelty and contempt upon Serb or Croat or Bosnian, as the case might be... Of course, here again there are latent nationalist and confessional differences to act as a force multiplier once the nasty business gets started, but the main thing to strike the outsider would be the question of “How can they tell?”  In Rwanda and Burundi, even if it is true, as some colonial anthropologists used to claim, that Hutu and Tutsi vary in height and also in the delimitation of their hairlines, it still doesn’t seem enough of a difference upon which to base a genocide...

One of the great advantages possessed by Homo sapiens is the amazing lack of variation between its different “branches.” Since we left Africa, we have diverged as a species hardly at all. If we were dogs, we would all be the same breed. We do not suffer from the enormous differences that separate other primates, let alone other mammals. As if to spite this huge natural gift, and to disfigure what could be our overwhelming solidarity, we manage to find excuses for chauvinism and racism on the most minor of occasions and then to make the most of them. This is why condemnation of bigotry and superstition is not just a moral question but a matter of survival.
The photo embedded at the top is of a street scene in Moscow (credit AP, via India.com).

The reason old books smell better than new ones

Details in the embedded infographic, but for the TL;DR crowd, it's basically because the cellulose in old books breaks down into ring structures that have pleasant fragrances, while new books smell like adhesives, inks, and other synthetic molecules.  You learn something every day.

A "mother-in-law" door (Newfoundland)

I have occasionally seen similar doors, usually assuming that a deck or porch is pending completion.  In Newfoundland, where these are common, one might view the door as an adaptation to deep snow.  But the reason is even more prosaic: "After Newfoundland officially joined Canada in 1949, fire regulations demanded that buildings have two exits, but most existing homes did not. So people carved a second door into their homes."

Photo cropped for size from the original, which is in an Instagram account devoted to these doors.

Minnesota family is the "tallest in the world"

According to Guiness, as reported by the Pine Knot News:
Adam Trapp 7-foot, 3.7 inches; Savanna 6-foot, 8.5 inches; dad Scott Trapp 6-foot, 8.2 inches; Molly (Trapp) Steede 6-foot, 5.8 inches and mom Krissy 6-foot, 3.5 inches...

When asked, Savanna said she considers their height a blessing - it led to college scholarships for all three kids and other opportunities. At the same time, it was also a blessing being surrounded by family who could all understand.

"Then you weren't the only tall person facing the unique struggles," she said. "Finding clothes that fit, hitting your head on doorways and ceiling fans, walking sideways up and down stairs that are too narrow for our big feet. Even driving cars can be difficult. Having that family support was huge, so you didn't feel like a misfit."..

All three also ended their athletic careers in college, for a mixture of reasons.

Both Molly and Savanna have graduated already - Savanna's in social work, Molly is a second-grade teacher - and Adam will graduate in May with a degree in biomedical engineering.

Savanna chuckled. "His degree has nothing to do with his height, but it's his height that got him the opportunity to go to the school he wanted," she said.
An excellent attitude, but we should note that the Guiness award recognizes only applicants that apply; there may be taller families in Africa or elsewhere.

This is a "Time Ball"

A small time ball that was used around 1855. This clock would sit in a railroad station or store window and was connected to a telegraph line. At precisely 1:00 P.M. daily, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich would send out a signal to all of these clocks and the ball would drop. By charging for this service, observatories could profit from keeping time.

The ball we see dropped on New Year's Eve every year originated from the practice of observatories dropping a large ball from the top of the building to indicate to ships and towns the precise time each day.
Text and photo from What is it?, via Neatorama. More at Wikipedia, which notes that there are about sixty time balls still in existence.

Reposted from 2010 because I found a longread discussion of time balls (pdf).

Remember what Hawkeye said in a "Mash" episode

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

Father Mulcahy: How do you figure that, Hawkeye?

Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.

Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.
Quote found in a discussion thread at Reddit that includes commentary on war crimes.

Kyiv, not Kiev

If you are my age, you grew up knowing about "Kiev," but now...
Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. (Apparently "Keev" is an acceptable pronunciation).  The Russian version is “Kiev” (kee-yev).  

The latter, based on transliteration from the Russian cyrillic Киев, became the internationally accepted name through the Soviet period and into the first years of this century, its recognisability enhanced perhaps by the eponymous chicken dish that became popular in the west in the 1970s.

But it is now associated with the Russification of Ukraine, and in recent years more and more publications, governments, airports and geographical dictionaries have switched the spelling to the Ukrainian variant...

Ukrainian took on some Polish influences during the early modern period. Several Ukrainian vowels ended up being pronounced quite differently from their Russian counterparts – not an unusual thing in languages when you think about how the word “time” is pronounced in Melbourne, Middlesbrough and Mississippi.

There are several letters of the alphabet unique to Ukrainian, for example the ї in Київ, and enough differences in vocabulary to make it hard for Russophones to understand Ukrainians when they speak in their tongue.
Now I need someone from Melbourne or Middlesbrough to tell me how they pronounce "time."  And I'll have a second helping of the chicken keeYIV, thank you...

22 February 2022


From a Guardian gallery of "the best photographs of the day." ["A model backstage at the Richard Quinn show during London fashion week" Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty Images for BFC]

A semiautomatic long rifle designed for children

Last month, the JR-15, or Junior 15, debuted at the SHOT Show, billed as the nation’s largest annual trade show for the sport shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry. The event is organized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a firearms industry trade association. The rifle is manufactured by WEE1 Tactical, an offshoot of Schmid Tool and Engineering, which has sold AR-15 components for 30 years. A November press release from WEE1 specifically notes the JR-15’s appeal to children: “Our vision is to develop a line of shooting platforms that will safely help adults introduce children to the shooting sports,” it reads. To do that, it’s built a gun whose “ergonomics are geared towards children”: it’s lighter than an adult version, at 2.2 pounds, 20% smaller, and with a patented safety mechanism, not standard on AR-15s, which needs to be pulled out “with some force” and rotated before it can fire. Slight tweaks aside, the company boasts that it “operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”...

The JR-15 is a .22 caliber rifle, meaning it takes bullets of  a .22-inch diameter; .22 caliber rifles are common as starter rifles because their shots are slightly slower than the cartridges used in an AR-15, with lower recoil—less painful for little shoulders. But, says Busse, to tout a .22 as safe is a myth. (The NRA brushes it off as never “a hard-hitter.”) It’s still a semi-automatic rifle that most would consider an assault weapon. “Believe me, you do not want to get shot with a .22,” he says. “To say that they’re nonlethal—that’s a joke.”

Specifications aside, the appeal to children is clear: WEE1’s colorful logo comprises two skulls, depicted as a little boy and girl, sucking on pacifiers, and with a gun sight over one eye. The branding “keeps the wow factor with the kids”; the logos come on glow-in-the-dark children’s baseball caps, too...

More families used to teach children to hunt; nowadays, “getting up early and sitting in duck blind” is not the norm for kids, Sugarmann says. In 1997, 33% of households had hunters, down to 17% in 2018. That also means a decline in gun ownership, of 32% in that period. So the industry has carved out other routes to drive up sales: focusing more on self-defense, protection of freedoms, and targeting youths—in an effort to secure the next generation of political pro-gun advocates.
Additional information and commentary at Fast Company.

Abraham Lincoln's dying message to Americans

"Dear citizens, I know that I am not well. Amid this evening at Ford’s Theatre, my body has borne within it an abominable manifestation of political strife, and I feel my senses beginning to take leave. As the light departs my corporeal form, yearning to move on to destinations unknown, I have but one final request.

I beg of you, please commemorate my birthday with mattress sales. Downy, tufted, even memory foam: none shall be exempt from the wholesale slashing of prices. Reserve for this great endeavor a day—nay, an entire weekend, for only a weekend would suffice for the monumental scale of these savings. Throughout our fair land, postboxes spanning as far as the stately eagle soars shall be papered with announcements, each a herald to the approaching cavalry of discount mattresses.

When this grand republic was first conceived, our Founders proffered a unique conception: that every man, no matter his creed, race, or sleep number, would in equal terms be free in the pursuit of happiness. Though we have not often lived up to these ideals in practice, I implore one further leap toward them—with a bedroom blowout bonanza the likes of which no man has ever seen.

It is true that during my tenure war has tested our national resolve, pitting brother against brother in this trying time. But by the hand of providence, even the most quarrelsome of kin shall come together against our common enemy: nighttime sweating. Why merely lay down arms when there also exists occasion to lay down upon moisture-wicking fabric with pressure point relief?..."
Continued at McSweeney's.

Map of Ukraine and comments about its president

Posted for future reference.  Might come in handy in the weeks (?months) ahead.  Via The New York Times, where there are other relevant maps.

Addendum:  Excerpts from an op-ed entitled The Comedian-Turned-President is Seriously in Over His Head -
When Mr. Zelensky took power in Ukraine in 2019, converting his TV fame into a stellar political career, no one knew what to expect. His opponents said he was so inexperienced, he was bound to be a disaster. His supporters thought that he would break away from the old ways and end corruption. His harshest critics claimed that Mr. Zelensky, a Russian-speaking man born in eastern Ukraine, would all but sell the country off to Russia. Others said he was an oligarch puppet.

Yet the truth is more prosaic. Mr. Zelensky, the showman and performer, has been unmasked by reality. And it has revealed him to be dispiritingly mediocre...

Mr. Zelensky’s other major project, a campaign he calls “deoligarchization” that’s aimed at capping the influence of the very wealthy, looks more like a P.R. move than serious policy. Despite his campaign promises, no progress has been made in fighting corruption. According to Transparency International, Ukraine remains the third-most-corrupt country in Europe, after Russia and Azerbaijan. Anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies are either stalling or run by loyalists appointed by the president...

Scandals and tolerance for corruption have chipped away at Mr. Zelensky’s popularity. Sixty-two percent of Ukrainians don’t want him to run for re-election, and if an election were held today, he’d garner about 25 percent of the vote — down from the 30 percent he easily won in the first round of the 2019 election. He’d still be likely to win, but the historic 73 percent he scored in the second round feels like a distant memory.

Mr. Zelensky, stung by the fallout, came to largely rely on the loyal rather than the qualified. A former movie producer and longtime friend was made chief of staff, joining other friends and confidants of Mr. Zelensky in wielding outsize power. The security service is overseen by a childhood friend, a former corporate lawyer, and the president’s party in Parliament is run by a loyal former I.T. businessman. The circle around the president has become an echo chamber.

In the process, Mr. Zelensky has turned into a version of the politician he campaigned against: insular, closed off, surrounded by yes men. In normal circumstances, that would be bad enough. But now, when Ukraine is menaced by Russia, it may be affecting Mr. Zelensky’s judgment.
The description sounds hauntingly like a recent U.S. presidential administration.  More at the link.  I would welcome informed commentary from TYWKIWDBI readers in Ukraine.

The 39 stairs of Alfred Hitchcock

Via Kottke.  I'll append this screencap of the credits so you can identify the ones you don't immediately recognize.  I'm not sure why the video content repeats itself, but movie buffs can use this to their advantage by first watching fullscreen to see how many you can identify, then after the Psycho clip, shrink back down and follow along with the screencap below...

Today is a palindromic ambigram day

The date reads the same not only forward and backward, but also upside-down.

And coincidentally this is happening on a "Twos-day."

19 February 2022

The power of humiliation

Selected excerpts from "Put on the Diamonds," an essay in the October 2021 issue of Harper's Magazine:
Anton Chekhov once observed that the worst thing life can do to human beings is to inflict humiliation. Nothing, nothing, nothing in the world can destroy the soul as much as outright humiliation. Every other infliction can eventually be withstood or overcome, but not humiliation. Humiliation lingers in the mind, the heart, the veins, the arteries forever. It allows people to brood for decades on end, often deforming their inner lives...

A psychiatrist who interviewed a group of men imprisoned for murder and other violent crimes asked each of them why he had done it. In almost all cases the answer was “He dissed me.”.. The New York Times columnist Frank Bruni was right when he wrote that [Harvey] Weinstein’s “hotel-room horror shows had as much to do with humiliation as with lust.”..

Primo Levi speaks often of the Nazi practice of “useless violence,” by which he means that even though everyone in Auschwitz—guards, gatekeepers, commanders—knew that all the prisoners were headed either for the gas chamber or a bullet in the head, they were nonetheless beaten, screamed at, made to stand naked and to endure a roll call that kept them at attention for an hour or two several times a week, outside, in every kind of weather.

Before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I thought Americans incapable of inflicting such horrors. After Abu Ghraib, I realized that Americans were as willing as the nationals of any other country to inflict the kind of humiliation that would make it a matter of indifference to the prisoner whether he lived or died.

In April 2011, The New York Review of Books published a letter written by two law professors, protesting the conditions under which the U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was being held: in solitary confinement, asked every five minutes the question “Are you okay?,” and the very week that the letter was written, forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of her cell.

The law professors pronounced this treatment tantamount to a violation of the U.S. criminal statute against torture, and defined the Army’s methods as, among other things, “procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”
As I read the article I had to stop and ponder the difference between humiliation, embarrassment and shame.  The terms seem to be used interchangeable, especially in the media when a (typically female) character announces "I was so ashamed"/ "I was so embarrassed"/ "I was so humiliated."

My sense is that shame and embarrassment typically arise when one's own actions or errors run counter to one's sense of propriety, while humiliation is typically imposed upon one by some other person.

Now back to the article, which offers this enticing paragraph to old English majors:
Humiliation commands the shape and texture of the works in which the following characters appear: George Eliot’s Gwendolen Harleth, Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff, Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Herman Melville’s Bartleby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, Edith Wharton’s Lily Bart, Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas. Many of these characters are made to suffer materially, but their material pain is as nothing next to the immaterial pain they suffer simply by being in a position that inflames the disgust and anxiety of those who seem to hold all the cards but need the tormented inferior close by—just to make sure.
To this list I would add one memorable character, portrayed somewhat whimsically in this classic New Yorker cartoon:

And back to the article for a final thought:
The great Borges thought it best to look upon our broken inner state as one of life’s great opportunities—to prove ourselves deserving of the blood pulsing through our veins. “Everything that happens,” he wrote, “including humiliations, misfortunes, embarrassments, all is given like clay,” so that we may “make from the miserable circumstances of our lives” something worthy of the gift of consciousness.
Growth would be nice, but vengeance makes for better movies. (Much more at the link, btw...)

18 February 2022

A supermassive black hole is really, really big - updated with something bigger

In the schematic image above, there is a little dot in the center for size compairson.

That's not the earth.   That's our entire solar system.
"Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space."
Discussed at the Space subreddit.

Reposted from 2017 to report something even bigger:

Astronomers have just found an absolute monster of a galaxy.

Lurking some 3 billion light-years away, Alcyoneus is a giant radio galaxy reaching 5 megaparsecs into space. That's 16.3 million light-years long, and constitutes the largest known structure of galactic origin...

Whatever is behind it, though, the researchers believe that Alcyoneus is still growing even bigger, far away in the cosmic dark.
Details at Science Alert.

Thousands of baptisms declared invalid

A priest resigned this month after his diocese announced that thousands of baptisms he had performed were invalid because he had changed a single word. He said, "We baptize you ... ," instead of "I baptize you ... ."

Arango said, “We baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," instead of "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

"The issue with using 'We' is that it is not the community that baptizes a person, rather, it is Christ, and Him alone, who presides at all of the sacraments, and so it is Christ Jesus who baptizes," Olmsted said.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2020 clarified that using "we" during the sacrament made it invalid...

Those who believe they or their children were baptized by Arango can fill out a form online to be properly baptized. Subsequent sacraments, including marriage, may need to be repeated by those who had invalid baptisms performed by Arango, according to the Diocese of Phoenix.

Dinner for your inner insectivore

A diner tries a dish of spicy red ants’ eggs and queen ant salad at Exofood Thailand, a progressive organic insect farm and laboratory."
Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPA

"Humanity I Love You" - E.E. Cummings

Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose soul dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the words country home and
mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn your
intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps

you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house

Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity

i hate you
This poem from the 1920s still echoes with some relevance today.

And just to forestall certain comments, It's "E. E. Cummings," not "e. e. cummings".  The headstone on his grave is even inscribed in ALLCAPS.

Funeral for a pet squirrel

Daguerreotype with "Genushe" etched on back of copper plate (ca.1845-46).  From the collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City).

Addendum:  I can't resist pairing that tender sweet photo with this one -

Identified as "Roast rack of squirrel, fondant jersey royal potatoes, carrot and wild garlic served at Paul Wedgwood’s restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photograph: Wedgwood."
My original starting point with grey squirrel was taste. But it’s also great for the environment,” says Paul Wedgwood, one of Scotland’s leading chefs, whose restaurant on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile has had grey squirrel on the menu since 2008. Wedgwood has even made haggis from the North American rodent that has driven the local extinction of the native red across much of England and Wales.

“It’s mellow, nutty and a bit gamey. It’s just a really nice flavour, and it’s easy to match. Anyone who’s doing rabbit could just easily swap in squirrel,” he says.

Why China will outflank the U.S. for world influence

Way back in 2010 I posted China and Africa - pay attention to this relationship.  Nowadays it is well known that China is far ahead of the U.S. and other western countries in terms of influence in Africa.

Now start paying attention to South America.  Begin by reading the Bloomberg report How China Beat Out the U.S. to Dominate South America.  Herewith some excerpts:
Chinese technology and money have helped build one of Latin America’s largest solar energy plants in Jujuy (pronounced hu-HUY), where hundreds of thousands of panels coat the desert like giant dominoes. Chinese security cameras guard government buildings across the provincial capital. Servers hum in a Chinese data storage plant. Beneath the remote, craggy hills and vast salt lakes lie veins of copper, lithium, and zinc, the raw materials of 21st century ­technology—including ­Chinese-made electric-car batteries...

It’s no secret that China has been pouring resources into South America this century, chipping away at the U.S.'s historic dominance and making itself the continent's No. 1 trading partner. But while international focus has turned in recent years to China's ventures in Africa and Asia, an important shift has gone largely unnoticed in the country's approach to South America: going local to expand and strengthen its financial grip.

Instead of focusing on national leaders, China and its companies have built relationships from the ground up. In 2019 alone, at least eight Brazilian governors and four deputy governors traveled to China...

China has bought up so much copper, pork, and soy—and constructed so many roads, trains, power grids, and bridges—that it’s surpassed the U.S. as South America’s largest trade partner and is now the single biggest trader with Brazil, Chile, and Peru...

Back in the capital city, on a recent weekday, vendors hawked bric-a-brac out of stalls by an old bus terminal. The new foreign influence seemed to both bemuse and worry them. “At this rate we’re all going to become Chinese,” says Mirtha Ramos, a 49-year-old mother of three who was selling fake designer caps. Nancy Ortega, 31, working at the next stall, adds, “I have a friend up in the mines who said the Chinese are taking over everything.” 
Chinese policy focuses on the very long term.  The U.S. seems incapable of thinking beyond the next quarterly report or mid-term election.  More at the link.

14 February 2022

The biggest land mammal ever

Paraceratherium is an extinct genus of hornless rhinoceros.  More info at the link, but what is interesting to me is that this was a mammal, which led me to this interesting Wikipedia page on The Largest Prehistoric Animals.

A comment at the via for the photo led to this (paywalled) New Scientist article explaining that the secret to the large size of the dinosaurs was their unusually lightweight bones (remember they are ancestors of birds) - others, of course, were semi-aquatic.

The illustration is watermarked to Vitamin Imagination.

"Space is fake"

Cropped for size from the image at the via.

Reposted from 2020 to add some interesting material from The Fourth Part of the World, by Toby Lester:

"Thanks in large part to the labors of Arab astronomers and mathematicians, ancient Greek proofs of the earth as spherical had survived into the Middle Ages and were circulating in Europe... For centuries afterward the work would be taught and studied in schools and universities around Europe. 'If the earth were flat from east to west,' Sacrobosco wrote, 'the stars would rise as soon for Westerners as for Orientals, which is false. Also, if the earth were flat from north to south and vice versa, the stars that were always visible to anyone would continue to be so wherever he went, which is false. But it seems flat to human sight because it is so extensive.'  Sailors certainly knew the world was round: a lookout at the top of a ship’s mast, Sacrobosco pointed out, always catches sight of land before a lookout standing at the foot of the mast -- 'and there is no other explanation of this thing,' Sacrobosco wrote, 'than the bulge of water.'"
Or see Ptolemy's third projection (1525):

For more regarding the modern "flat earth" hypothesis, see Kolo Jezdec's links in the Comment thread.  Personally, I think a lot of the "flat earth" stuff online is just people messing around trying to be funny (cf Drabkikkers link to Birds Aren't Real).  Although there are some really, really stupid people like the truck driver above.

A couple other interesting excerpts from the book:
"Matthew [Paris, 13th century] drew his maps as a series of destination cities for pilgrims, often separated by the French word journee - meaning "day," as in a day's travel, a usage that gave rise to the English word journey..."

"The conquests led by Temüjin were legendary, and to celebrate them the Mongols posthumously bestowed on him the title Fierce Ruler, or Chingis Khan.  Today, thanks to an imperfect Arabic transliteration of that name, he is widely known as Genghis Khan...

"During the next four years, between 1237 and 1241, the Mongols swept through much of Russia, Poland, and Hungary, destroying entire cities, armies, and populations.  After a rout in Silesia, one chronicler reported that Mongol soldiers had collected nine sacks full of their victim's ears and had sent them back to their capital, Karakorum, in the Mongolian steppe, as proof of their victory."
Ship image via NPR,  Ptolemy figure cropped and brightened from the one at Wikimedia Commons.

A poem by a Nobel Laureate, and an award-winning photo

White serpent
polar circle
wings in granite
pink sorrow in the iceblock
forbidden zones around the mystery
heartpounding miles from distance
wind chains hanging on homesickness
flaming shell of fury—

And the snail
with the ticking pack of God-time.

When I was an English major back in the 1960s, I read lots of poetry for course assignments, from the epic book-length ones (Milton's Paradise Lost, Robert Penn Warren's Brother to Dragons, Lord Byron's Don Juan) to the briefest (I still remember sitting in a coffeehouse explaining to some bewildered coed the meaning of e. e. cumming's vertical poem l(a, which is four words long).

But I just can't wrap my head around the one above.  Harper's notes that it was written by Nelly Sachs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.  It has been translated from the German, so perhaps something has been lost in the process.  Had this been presented to me in 1968 to parse in three pages of a yellow exam book, I suppose I could have come up with something, but nowadays I'll just assume it appeared from another space-time continuum.

My personal taste in poetry tends toward The Road Not Taken or Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  Readers are invited to explain the embedded poem to me in the Comments.

This seems to be an appropriate place to append an award-winning photograph that I don't understand -

- from a gallery at The Guardian presenting "the best of the Sony World Photography awards 2022, this one credited to Vladimir Zivojinovic as part of a project getting to know the "Russian soul from different angles."

I know it's juvenile to mock things one doesn't understand, so I'll just move on...

"Cross sea" and "cross swell" - updated re the Écluse à poissons

"In surface navigation, a cross sea is a sea state with two wave systems traveling at oblique angles. This may occur when water waves from one weather system continue despite a shift in wind. Waves generated by the new wind run at an angle to the old, creating a shifting, dangerous pattern. Until the older waves have dissipated, they create a sea hazard among the most perilous."
A cross swell is generated when the wave systems are longer period swell, rather than short period wind generated waves
Amazing.  I didn't even know this could happen.  You learn something every day.

Text and image from Wikipedia, via The Soul is Bone.

Addendum: Reposted from December 2013 to add this video sent in by reader Dominique:

The video provides a brief tour of Ile de Re, the tip of which is shown in the photo at the top. I tried to set up the video to start about midway, to focus on the enormous tidal fish trap constructed there but it didn't work, so you can skip to about the 3:45 mark to see the relevant portion.

I have seen other weirs and fish traps over the years, but never one as massive as this.  After watching the video I went to Google Maps and was pleased to see that the structure is visible in the satellite view:

It extends out from the lighthouse and the beach (light brown in the satellite image); the scale can be appreciated by comparing it with the buildings at the bottom.

There is more information hereAnd here.  Apparently the structure (or its earliest incarnation) dates to about the 14th century.  Amazing.

Reposted from 2014 to add this photo of cross-waves on the New Zealand coast -

- and these relevant comments from the via:
I believe this is around the very north, possibly Cape Reinga. That's where the Tasman and Pacific oceans meet and collide, creating a pretty line stretching out to sea.  Very dangerous though. Don't swim in it... If you see square waves in the ocean, get out of the water as soon as possible. Why? Because the phenomenon is usually associated with strong and powerful rip tides ..."

Addendum:  Here's a nice gif of cross-sea waves from up close. 

12 February 2022

Absolutely worth 10 minutes of your life

The YouTube source page has an extensive note from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute with relevant links and a list of the creatures depicted.  There are 40 amazing creatures in this ten-minute mashup (the audio becomes repetitive - too bad they didn't select a longer piece). 

This is not for watching on a phone screen.  It demands either your desktop or a wide-screen TV.  And be sure to click on the fullscreen icon in the LR corner.   

Enjoy, marvel at what forms life can take, and shudder to realize that we are slowly destroying the environment they live in.

Short-term and long-term interest rates

Interest rates will be very much in the news in the months ahead, so I'm embedding a couple charts from Bloomberg for reference.  Above is a two-year chart of two-year bond rates.  Below is a 3-year chart of 10-year Treasuries.

Moon trees

The "moon trees," whose seeds circled the moon 34 times in Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa's pocket, were welcomed back to Earth with great fanfare in 1971. One was planted in Washington Square in Philadelphia as part of the 1975 bicentennial celebrations. Another took root at the White House. Several found homes at state capitals and space-related sites around the country. Then-president Gerald Ford called the trees "living symbol[s] of our spectacular human and scientific achievements."

And then, mysteriously, everyone seemed to forget about them...

[NASA astronomer] Williams has made it his mission to find them. For the past 15 years, he has kept a record on the web of every known tree's location. When he started in 1996, he only knew where 22 trees were found. Now, that number has climbed to 80.
More information at the Wired link above and at The Atlantic.

The curator at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum tells me that there are no moon trees in their collection, and the link above suggests none anywhere in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

BTW, the link for buying seeds of "half-moon trees" (descendants of the originals), appears to have undergone linkrot.

10 February 2022

Dolly Parton with REALLY big hair - reposted to add more

The incomparable Dolly Parton, pictured above with massively "big hair" and looking so young, presumably from the 1960s.

I've embedded here the track of her #1 record "Jolene." (click to listen). [seeqpod has vanished]

For an even better experience, go HERE and watch her perform "I Will Always Love You." (image credit here).

Reposted from 2008 to add this photo of Dolly with her husband Carl Thomas Dean, to whom she has now been married for over 50 years -

- and this comment from the discussion thread at the OldSchoolCool subreddit source:
“The only bipartisan thing people in Tennessee agree on is that you don’t talk shit about Dolly.”
Related: 100,000,000 books donated

Reposted once more.   (TYWKIWDBI doesn't like to cover celebrities, but we make an exception for Dolly Parton).  In this video she answers the question "How long does it take you to do your hair?"

Addendum:  Dolly contributed $1 million toward the development of Moderna's covid vaccine.

Reposted from 2020 to add this example of why Dolly Parton is one of the few exceptions to the permaban on celebrities in TYWKIWDBI.
The country singer’s company recently announced that her theme parks will pay for its employees to pursue a college degree.

Starting 24 February, employees at Dollywood who pursue a college degree will have their tuition, associated fees and books 100% covered by the Dollywood theme park.

The offer also includes all 11,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees that work at any of the 25 amusement parks and attractions under Herschend Enterprises, Dollywood’s parent company, including Dollywood.

Under the Grow U program, the new education pilot initiative, employees can register for a higher learning program on their first day through 30 offered learning partners, with subjects ranging from marketing, technology and other studies.
Tuition, fees, and books.  100%.  Every employee.  Starting on day 1.

The world needs more Dolly Partons.

Addendum:  And let's bring this post full-circle by closing with this photo of a 13-year-old Dolly Parton with regular hair (via).

Addendum:  Norah O'Donnell interviews Dolly for 20 minutes re fashion and spirituality:

Marjorie Taylor Greene decries the "gazpacho police"

“Not only do we have the DC jail which is the DC gulag, but now we have Nancy Pelosi’s gazpacho police spying on members of Congress, spying on the legislative  work that we do, spying on our staff and spying on American citizens,” she said, referring to the Democratic speaker of the House. 
Audio and video at the Republican Accountability Project ("We are Republicans & conservatives defending pro-democracy R's, holding accountable those who tried to overturn the election, & fighting against disinformation.")  Via.

More about gazpacho.

Temporary ectopic implantation

"A man lost his arm in an accident. Due to tissue damage, they couldn't reattach it immediately so they sutured it to his leg to ensure blood flow. The procedure is called temporary ectopic implantation. It succeeded in saving the man's arm which was later reattached."
I haven't found the case report [news report here in Spanish].  The comments at the via are trivial and worthless, but the image is worth seeing.


08 February 2022

Word for the day: homeboni

Excerpts from an interesting longread at the StarTribune about the increasing prevalence of sophisticated backyard skating rinks.
"When you fly into California, you look down and see everybody's backyards with the pools," Jasper said. "If you're flying to Minnesota, you look down and everybody's got a backyard rink now. It's blowing up."

These rink builders — especially those with deluxe setups — spend long, frozen nights melting and chipping ice bumps, filling cracks, and standing out there with a garden hose. They dream of the Zambonis their spouses won't let them buy and settle for "homebonis" they've McGyvered out of hardware-store parts...

There's a huge range of rink-making materials and methods, including DIY lumber packages and kits with plastic liners, brackets and sideboards, which typically range from the high hundreds to low thousands of dollars...

For Deon Wolff, making smooth ice is a point of pride. He recently upgraded his handheld propane torch, for melting imperfections, to a retrofitted roofers' rack, so he can wheel several torches at once.

Rink-makers are famous for their homemade resurfacing contraptions, from PVC pipes and towels dragged behind buckets to tanks hauled on modified golf carts. Traff hooks three snow blowers together to clear his rink and invested in a military-grade water heater to make fresh coats of ice more robust...

"When you're out there at 10 o'clock and it's dark and the wind is still, you can hear everything from miles away," Greco said. "Then once you're done, you look at that perfect sheet for the morning and you're like, 'This is awesome.' "

Doing crossword puzzles with the professionals

I've been doing crossword puzzles since forever, including daily visits to the online puzzles at The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.  I thought my solving times were pretty good, so when I saw an announcement at Boswords that anyone could participate in a national online puzzle-solving competition, I signed up.   I was one of 159 new participants in a pool of over a thousand cruciverbalists.

The competition took place two days ago, in a format of four different puzzles with difficulties corresponding to Tuesday- to Friday- level NYT puzzles (but with the error-check function disabled). 

The first puzzle had a 25-minute time limit for the 66 entries.  I finished in 15:20 with no errors, which I thought was pretty good.

The winner finished the puzzle in 2:34.  There were five who finished in less than 3 minutes!!

It never ceases to amaze me what people can accomplish when they devote time and energy to developing a skill.  Readers who are interested in crosswords should check the Boswords site (and their links to other related websites).  They sponsor other competitions throughout the year.

BTW - not from the competition, but for fun try this fiendish crossword clue:  "Line just before a comma." (seven letters)  (answer in the Comments) 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...