30 April 2022

Placenta cake

Photo from Pass the Garum, which includes a recipe.   You can read more about placenta cakes at Neatorama or Wikipedia.

Lesson for the day: The Latin word placenta is derived from the Greek plakous ("flat") for thin or layered flat breads.  The placenta of mammalian pregnancy is so named from the perceived resemblance between its shape and that of a placenta cake.

You learn something every day.

And yes, you can find articles like I drank my fresh placenta in a smoothie... if you are so interested.

Addendum:  See also "Save Some Womb for Dessert" ("From the February 4, 1998, episode of TV Dinners, a cooking show that airs on Channel 4 in England.")
"Have a look in here. This is Rosie’s placenta. Waste not, want not. Have a smell. Isn’t it lovely? Lovely and fresh?... Initially, when Mary said that we were going to be eating placenta, I thought, Yech. But then when I thought about it I said, Okay, as long as it’s cooked in onions and gravy like a casserole. Then she said it was going to be a pâté and I thought, Brilliant. Brilliant. Really...."

Anxiety in American children

Excerpts from an article in The Atlantic that will be of interest to parents:
Here are some things that, over the course of the SPACE* training, I heard of parents doing to avoid setting off their anxious children:

Going upstairs to get a child’s backpack before school because the child is scared to be alone in any area of the house and the parent doesn’t have time to argue about it. Driving a child to school because the child is frightened of the bus, with the result that the mother is late to work every single day.

Tying and retying a child’s shoes until they feel just right.

Spending 30 minutes a day, on average, checking and rechecking a child’s homework.

Announcing one’s presence as one moves around the house, so that a child will at all times know where to find a parent (“I’m going to the kitchen, Oliver”). Accompanying a 9-year-old child to the toilet because he is afraid to be alone. Allowing a 9-year-old to accompany a parent to the toilet because he is afraid to be alone. Peeing in a bucket—a mother, not a child—because the basement playroom has no bathroom, and the child is afraid to be alone.

Allowing a child to sleep in the parents’ bed. Sitting or lying with a child while he falls asleep.

Always carrying a plastic bag because a child is afraid she’ll vomit.

Cutting a 13-year-old’s food because she’s afraid of knives.

Ceasing to have visitors because a child is intensely shy. Speaking for a child in restaurants. Asking a child’s teacher not to call on her in class.

Installing the Find My Friends app on a child’s phone so that the child can track the parents’ whereabouts.

Preparing different foods for a child because she won’t eat what everyone else eats.

Buying a new burglar alarm. Buying a new car. Seriously contemplating buying a new house.

The list went on and on. The most disorienting thing about it was not its length, but the way it merged stories that seemed to me bizarre but turned out to be commonplace with stories that sounded familiar but upon further consideration seemed unhealthy. Many of us think nothing of preparing different meals for different family members. Bedtime has become such a protracted affair that parents may now do the work a stuffed animal once did.

I barely suppressed a laugh at the idea of a kid tracking his parents, rather than vice versa, but murmurs of recognition sounded around the room. “That’s common,” one therapist said. The idea of buying a new house must have made my eyebrows go up, because another woman leaned over and whispered: “I have a family that moved to a split-level because the daughter didn’t like to be out of earshot.”...

We all have dreams, and Angela and Seth’s was to stop making turkey loaf.

By the time they sought help from the SPACE program’s Yaara Shimshoni last year, they had served it to their then-6-year-old son, Owen, some 3,000 times. (I have changed parents’ and children’s names.) Put another way, virtually every day for four years—two-thirds of his life—Owen had eaten turkey loaf for both lunch and dinner. For breakfast, he favored dry Cheerios.

Calling Owen a picky eater wouldn’t have captured the extent of the problem. He was terrified of most foods. On those rare occasions when he tasted something new, he would gag. Going out together as a family was a minor ordeal: Either they packed turkey loaf to take with them, or they hurried home before the next meal. Mostly, the family just stayed in. “If we ran out of it, Owen would have an absolute fit,” Seth said when he and Angela spoke with me in February. Once, after a supermarket strike disrupted the local turkey supply, he spent the night driving from store to store, searching for enough meat to get through the week... 

Maybe the way to think about recent parenting is this: All kids today are being overprotected the way only girls used to be. Except the changes in childhood are far broader than that. Even girls, after all, used to get themselves around the neighborhood and have summer jobs and chores. Today, only 10 percent of kids walk or bicycle to school, a steep decline from decades past. Forty years ago, 58 percent of teenagers got summer jobs; today, 35 percent do, and the after-school job is an even rarer species. When Braun Research surveyed more than 1,000 American adults, 82 percent said that as children they’d had regular chores—but only 28 percent said their own children did.
Way more at the longread source article.  *SPACE = Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions program at Yale University's Child Study Center.

Purchasing books by color - updated

I've heard of this for years, but didn't realize it was so popular until I found this Etsy seller and scrolled down the page to see other offerings by other sellers.  Prices apparently vary by color:

Reposted from 2021 to add this information for a Washington Post article:
Chuck Roberts, owner of Wonder Book & Video in Frederick, Md., buys tractor-trailer loads of new, unsold books, known in the trade and dreaded by authors, as remainders. Brokers pick them up for pennies from publishers or bookstores, and Roberts stands ready to make a deal. He recently bought a 44,000-pound load of about 38,000 remaindered books.

Roberts, who sells both used and remaindered books, told me he once provided two miles — yes, two miles — of books as decor for more than 100 locations of Restoration Hardware (now known as RH) in the United States and Canada. ..

There’s something about resuscitating books that produces an irresistible tug in people with an instinct for lifesaving. Like McKim, Pat Oza, who runs O3 Books, a thriving books-by-the-foot business on Etsy and his own website, gave up medical school. “It hurts to see them thrown out,” Oza told me.

At McKim’s warehouse, books arrive in 3-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide circular cardboard crates that weigh about 1,000 pounds and are known as “gaylords,” a box manufacturer name that has become a catch-all, like Kleenex is for facial tissues. A gaylord is a magical and mystifying thing — a grab bag, a treasure hunt. McKim, who made his name selling bundles of children’s books, usually has only the scantest notion about what will be inside...

McKim’s books-by-the-foot designer, Charlotte Tillier, is ever on the lookout for those most-prized book spines: pink and purple. Not many of those out there. She sells three feet of vintage red-spined books for $138; but the same length of vintage pink and purple goes for $300. Tillier has become expert at stockpiling orange- and black-spined books for the requests that come roaring in around Halloween, and red, white and blue ones for the Fourth of July.

Expressing concern about the environment

Let's start with Prince Charles' upcoming trip to Canada:
LONDON (Reuters) - Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will visit Canada next month as part of celebrations to mark his mother Queen Elizabeth's 70th year on the British throne, his office said on Tuesday.

The trip, the 19th the heir-to-the-throne has undertaken to Canada, will see the royal couple travel more than 2000 miles from Newfoundland and Labrador to the Northwest Territories over three days from May 17-19.

"The Prince of Wales has long believed that we need to learn from indigenous peoples around the world how better we should live in and care for nature and the planet," Clarence House said in a statement.

"Canada is seeing the impact of climate change and so this tour will highlight an emphasis on learning from Indigenous Peoples in Canada as well as a focus on working with businesses to find a more sustainable way of living with global warming."
Because nothing says conservation like a transatlantic flight followed by traveling 2000 miles in three days and then flying back home.  Perhaps some of the indigenous elders could suggest that to him.

I can't resist pairing that story with "Yacht to know better," from Harper's:
From “Why yachting families make great climate caretakers,” which was published in November on the website Superyacht Life. The average superyacht is estimated to produce 7,020 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Those on board a yacht become a part of the ocean’s ecosystem, and they are perfectly positioned to assist in the fight to protect our warming earth. Here are five ways yacht-owning families can help our oceans heal:

1. Young yachting families can use their time at sea to bear witness to how the ocean is changing. Photographing marine life and accumulating ocean plastics is not just something adults can do. It is an activity for children too.

2. By ferrying scientists to and from remote locations, yachting families can take a hands-on approach to ocean conservation. By working with scientists at sea, children can develop a love of climate protection.

3. Families can sponsor and track their own sea creatures. “My whale is called Luke!” laughs Dr. Vienna Eleuteri. “I adopted him when my nephew was born.”
Two more equally ridiculous examples at the link.

26 April 2022

Morel mushrooms successfully cultivated

The morel mushroom is known as one of the world’s most coveted edible mushrooms. During the last hundred years, it has only with limited success been possible to cultivate black morel mushrooms under controlled, indoor conditions. We are therefore very pleased to announce that we finally, after many years of intensive research at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University and the University of Copenhagen, have invented and developed a method for controlled indoor cultivation of black morel mushrooms all-year-round under well defined conditions in climate chambers. We are able to produce 4.2 kilos of first-class morels per square metre within a total cultivation period of 22 weeks, corresponding to an annual production of 10 kilos of morels per square metre. The method is so well developed, that a commercial production can be started after an appropriate automation of the cultivation process.
More information and a brief video at The Danish Morel Project.

Related: Pig is an excellent movie.

How an authoritarian state implements lockdown

The drone footage embedded above is not from the start of the pandemic two years ago - it's from this month.  Americans who bitch about wearing a mask might do well to ponder what it's like to live in a country under the type of authoritarian rule that some right-wingers admire.

And that shutdown in China is going to affect American pocketbooks; the resulting inflation will be blamed on Biden.
Widespread covid outbreaks in China have bought entire cities to a standstill and hobbled manufacturing and shipping hubs throughout the country. An estimated 373 million people — or about one-quarter of China’s population — have been in covid-related lockdowns in recent weeks because of what is known as the country’s zero covid policy, according to economists at Nomura Holdings. There are also fears that new lockdowns could soon take hold in the capital city, Beijing, escalating the threat to the global economic recovery.

Anxiety over new disruptions has already caused the Chinese stock market to fall sharply, weighing on U.S. stock indexes as well.

And there are signs things could only get worse. Continuing lockdowns in Shanghai — a major hub for America’s semiconductor and electronics supply chains — has set up automakers, electronics companies and consumer goods firms for months of delays and higher costs.

Addendum:   see this brief video of extreme lockdown measures being undertaken, seemingly locking people into hotel rooms or apartments.

"Spark arrestor" explained

The locomotive on the left has a spark arrestor; the one on the right does not.  Discussed in the explainlikeimfive subreddit thread.  Photo via.

Human brain (left). Dolphin brain (right).

Note the impressive folding of the gyri and sulci that increase the surface gray matter, and look at that awesome cerebellum.
As some of you have pointed out, "the two halves aren't connected." In reality, they are connected, but the corpus callosum is very thin. Dolphins do that thing called unihemispheric slow‐wave sleep, and are able to remain vigilant even with only one hemisphere awake. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans during this type of sleep show that there's also lateralization in cerebellar activity. However, the fact that dolphins can remain vigilant even with one hemisphere asleep implies that there is no extreme lateralization of function that would cause severe impairment.

One of the theorized reasons why "the cerebellum is massive" is because dolphins rely so heavily on auditory input. In both humans and dolphins, the cerebellum coordinates voluntary movements such as posture, balance, coordination, and speech, but in dolphins the sensorimotor information is much more heavily influenced by auditory input. In directing echolocation trains and responding to this information, the dolphin must adjust its body quickly and precisely according to echolocation signals, and the corresponding lobules are much larger in dolphins than in humans.
Via.  Reposted from 2019.  I'm still in awe of that cerebellum.

25 April 2022

Bill for a 1.8 mile ambulance ride in the U.S.

Image cropped for size from the original at the MildlyInfuriating subreddit, where the comment thread includes lots of horror stories (and a defense of the ambulance drivers, who are not the financial beneficiaries of this extortion).

Michigan lawmaker eloquently and vehemently defends herself

"McMorrow, a Democratic state senator in Michigan, delivered an epic takedown of a GOP colleague on Tuesday that continues to go viral. It included forceful pushback against Republicans over laws stigmatizing gay and trans children and families, and a searing moral defense of treating them respectfully... It might prod Democrats to rethink their responses to GOP attacks along these lines.

The 35-year-old McMorrow’s ire was triggered by a Republican colleague’s fundraising pitch describing McMorrow as a “groomer.”..

You’ll note that McMorrow didn’t sound defensive or offer mealy-mouthed, hairsplitting fact-checks. She didn’t capitulate to the Republican framing of these matters for a second.

Instead, McMorrow laid bare her deepest convictions and explained how they lead her to her positions on gay and trans rights, and why basic human decency demands them. Importantly, she made this about what Republicans are doing.

Many Democrats do profess outrage about the GOP’s use of the “groomer” slander. But you rarely hear Democrats go beyond casting themselves as mere victims of a vile smear, and instead hammering those pushing it for their rhetorical degeneracy, phony piety about protecting children, profound lack of rectitude, and all around sleazy and debased public conduct.

McMorrow’s description of herself as a White, Christian, suburban mom — one who wants her children to respect and empathize with non-Christian, non-White, gay and trans kids and families — gets at this. It turns the “identity politics” debate on its head.
Lots more commentary and analysis at The Washington Post.

Sports word for the day: collective

Excerpts from a Chip Scoggins column in the StarTribune:
HELP WANTED: Individual, group of people or company to serve as a third-party entity known as a "collective" that facilitates sponsorship and marketing opportunities for University of Minnesota athletes under name, image and likeness (NIL) provisions allowed by the NCAA. Oh, and do it fast. This train is barreling down the track.

Anyone interested? Because it's necessary to the future of Gophers athletics. Do it or get left behind in the brave, new NIL world.

The university is not permitted to handle NIL deals for athletes. That job is increasingly being outsourced to collectives, a term that fans should get familiar with because collectives are popping up around the country by the week and securing endorsement deals and other moneymaking opportunities for college athletes.

The Gophers need one.

Collectives typically are formed by boosters and supporters of programs. They act independently of the athletic department, though compliance offices provide education in explaining NIL rules and what forms of income opportunities will be deemed permissible.

Nearly 40 schools have at least one collective, and industry experts expect that all Power Five schools will have one by the end of the year. A few schools already have multiple collectives.

Why is everything unfolding so quickly? Recruiting, as always, and the pressure to keep up with rivals.

The NCAA prohibits using NIL as enticements in recruiting (wink, wink), but surprise, that's a rule being ignored.

One Division I coach told me that recruits are asking about NIL opportunities and whether the school has a collective. It's become part of the courtship between coach and player, particularly with transfers in the portal who might either have NIL options at their current school or are shopping for the most lucrative opportunity when choosing a new school.

This is the new reality of college sports. People might not like this new reality or the direction that things are headed, but NIL is here to stay.

Athletes are making money off their success and popularity — rightfully so — and schools realize that NIL has become a fundamental part of selling their programs. Boosters everywhere are rushing to form collectives in what has been referred to as the "wild, wild West."..

One University of Texas collective will give every Longhorns offensive lineman on scholarship $50,000 annually to make charitable appearances...
What an amazing change in recent years.  

What would Pachelbel think?

Some explanatory comments at Neatorama.

24 April 2022

A fascinating video about Roman aqueducts

Lots and lots of information I didn't know, most of it quite interesting.  Sadly, the speaker employs an execrable narrative style of pauses and emphasis that has to be tolerated to extract the info.

The #1 cause of death among American children

Not cancer or any disease presented in public service announcements...
"The previous analysis, which examined data through 2016, showed that firearm-related injuries were second only to motor vehicle crashes (both traffic-related and nontraffic-related) as the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, defined as persons 1 to 19 years of age. Since 2016, that gap has narrowed, and in 2020, firearm-related injuries became the leading cause of death in that age group. From 2019 to 2020, the relative increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths of all types (suicide, homicide, unintentional, and undetermined) among children and adolescents was 29.5% — more than twice as high as the relative increase in the general population. The increase was seen across most demographic characteristics and types of firearm-related death."

Chart and text from the New England Journal of Medicine.  And these from a BBC article entitled America's gun culture - in seven charts:

Several of the countries in that list have compulsory military service, which results in weapons being kept at home.

A swan's nest in Serbia


alt - sport

For those who believe sports should be fun.

23 April 2022

Thought for the day

Time is like a river. You cannot touch the water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again. Enjoy every moment of life. 

As a bagpiper,  I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Nova Scotia back country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew  left and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologized to the men for being late.
I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like  I've never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played "Amazing Grace", the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and  started for my car. Though my head was hung low, my heart was full.
As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say,
"I never seen anything like that before, and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

18 April 2022

Unutterably sad

"The mother’s hands were shaking when she started writing on her 2-year-old’s body. They trembled so much that she couldn’t write correctly on her first try, even though the information was second nature: Her daughter’s name, Vira, along with her birth date and their family phone numbers.

“I thought that if my husband and I died, Vira could find who she is,” the mother, Oleksandra Makoviy, recalled.

For Vira, standing in a diaper in their house in Kyiv, the writing on her back was a game. She didn’t know that the bombing had begun.

Ms. Makoviy’s desperate attempt to prepare her daughter for the possibility of being orphaned as the family attempted to escape the Ukrainian capital during the Russian invasion has become a wrenching symbol of the anguish of a nation of parents..."
The report continues at The New York Times.  Photo from the mother's Instagram.

15 April 2022

How to tell if your "Great Gatsby" is a first edition

As reported by Bloomberg:
The Great Gatsby is considered, in collecting terms, the No. 1 American novel to collect,” says the London-based rare book dealer Peter Harrington. “A lot of that has to do with the dust jacket—people just seem to desperately want it.”.. Harrington’s book is priced at £275,000 (about $360,000), placing it at the upper tier of a booming collectible market...

The first edition numbered 20,870 copies. The easiest way to determine if a book is from this print run—aside from just looking inside the cover—is by checking for errors that were eventually corrected... One telltale sign from the first printing is a mistake on the jacket itself. The protagonist’s name, Jay Gatsby, is spelled with a lower-case j, “and rather than reprint the whole thing, they literally had someone go over it with a rubber J stamp”...

And if you've lost the dust jacket (which, incidentally, "was slightly too large, making it prone to tear..." -
That very first issue also has least five typos inside. Rare book dealer Heather O’Donnell, in a primer on the Gatsby first edition market in Lapham’s Quarterly, writes that on page 205, “Meyer Wolfsheim’s secretary tells Nick Carraway she’s ‘sick in tired’ of young men trying to force their way into the office.” 

Related: In the story, Jay Gatsby worked as a janitor at St. Olaf

It's a haboob - get over it!

[This post is a repost of one I wrote in 2011.  I'm replacing the original video (which has undergone linkrot over the years) with this one I found at  Kottke.  I don't know if the 2011 discussion included below is still relevant, or whether Arizona residents have finally gotten over their Islamophobia.]

When the massive dust storm hit Phoenix, the photos and videos were quite impressive.
The massive dust storm, also called a "haboob" in Arabic and around Arizona, is all locals could talk about Wednesday. It moved through the state around sundown Tuesday, halting airline flights, knocking out power to nearly 10,000 people, turning swimming pools into mud pits and caking cars with dirt.
It looked like a scene from the American "dust bowl" of the 1930s, or from modern-day middle-eastern desert regions.  Since it was Arizona, I bookmarked the links, planning a future post about a subsequent epidemic of coccidiomycosis.

Instead, what I encountered this week [in 2011] is an article in the Times reporting that some Arizona residents were offended that the storm was referred to as a haboob.
“I am insulted that local TV news crews are now calling this kind of storm a haboob,” Don Yonts, a resident of Gilbert, Ariz., wrote to The Arizona Republic...  “How do they think our soldiers feel coming back to Arizona and hearing some Middle Eastern term?”

Diane Robinson of Wickenburg, Ariz., agreed, saying the state’s dust storms are unique and ought to be labeled as such. “Excuse me, Mr. Weatherman!” she said in a letter to the editor. “Who gave you the right to use the word ‘haboob’ in describing our recent dust storm? While you may think there are similarities, don’t forget that in these parts our dust is mixed with the whoop of the Indian’s dance, the progression of the cattle herd and warning of the rattlesnake as it lifts its head to strike.”
Fortunately, some rebuttals have been offered -
Meteorologists in the Southwest have used the term for decades,” said Randy Cerveny, a climatologist at Arizona State University. “The media usually avoid it because they don’t think anyone will understand it.”

Not everyone was put out by the use of the term. David Wilson of Goodyear, Ariz., said those who wanted to avoid Arabic terms should steer clear of algebra, zero, pajamas and khaki, as well. “Let’s not become so ‘xenophobic’ that we forget to remember that we are citizens of the world, nor fail to recognize the contributions of all cultures to the richness of our language,” he wrote.

Spurious correlations can be amusing

Via with snarky discussion.  More examples of spurious correlations.

Jump rope and the meaning of life

I saw this story on the evening news and thought it was worth reposting in the blog.  There are seemingly endless numbers of jump rope videos on YouTube, including some fairly spectacular performances (try searching "double dutch"). 

The video features a group called The Firecrackers.  I initially posted one of their performances back in 2010 (it's a low-rez amateur video but still shows the moves).

This new video is better because it incorporates the backstory (which begins at 1:30).  This coach is a remarkable woman.

Reposted from 2015 to add this video of competitive Double Dutch:

Reposted from 2020 to add this video of Tori Boggs, the reigning world champion (via Kottke):

Awesome - but as a senior citizen, I have to wonder how this young woman's knees will be holding up when she's in her 50s...

Congratulations to the Minnesota Oldtimers

Excerpts from a recent article in USA Hockey:
The team wrapped up its second consecutive national championship, winning the 75+ Open division...

The Oldtimers have been attending Nationals for over a decade and have won titles in the 70-and-over division in 2014, ’15, ’17 and ’21. This year, a four-team 75+ Open division was added...

The Oldtimers program is comprised of about 60 players ranging in age from 63-85. It’s a dedicated group of guys from the Twin Cities and surrounding suburbs that skate three days per week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays — during the season.

Not just anyone can play for the Oldtimers; the team has high standards on who it allows into its hockey fraternity.

“I think the key to all of this is, and I was part of it, we’re selective on who can play with us,” said Melnychuk, who captained the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in 1959-60. “In other words, many of these leagues around the Twin Cities, there’s all kinds of them and they let a lot of guys in who are 30, 40, 50, and they dominate and the older guys never get to touch the puck. So the first rule we made was to join our group, you have to be at least 63, 64. … We control the age group.

“The second thing that we control is we don’t want to deal with amateurs. In other words, just because a guy wants to play, that’s not qualification. In order to join our group, you will have to have at least played high school hockey, but that’s just the minimum. The majority of our guys are all college guys or pro, so on our team, that’s the deal. Most of us have played college.”

We’ll keep at it until our legs don’t work anymore or we have other ailments,” said Rossini, who is 75 years old. “It’s not guaranteed. Every day’s a blessing at our age and we’ve lost a couple teammates just in the last year here due to different ailments, and it’s an eye-opener. When that happens, you kind of look in the mirror sometimes and say, how long can I still do this? When we do get on the ice, afterward we have a beer and raise a glass to the guys that are gone now and say, ‘Hey, we’re really lucky to still be doing this.’”
One of my high school classmates - Peter Markle - is the second from the right on the back row.  I distinctly remember him deking around me with the puck back in 7th grade when our school had mandatory hockey that put incompetents like me onto the ice.  I'd like to think that he parlayed that experience into his later production of Youngblood.

Which media organizations do Americans trust?

The answer depends strongly on a person's political leanings.  Discussion, analysis, and other relevant charts at YouGov.

Epstein-Barr ("mononucleosis") virus as the cause of multiple sclerosis

Excerpts from a BBC article:
What leads the immune system astray has been a long and hotly debated mystery, but studies published this year have convincingly pointed the finger at the Epstein-Barr virus...

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is so common that nearly all of us can expect to catch it during our lives. Most of us won't even notice, but the virus is famous for "the kissing disease", which is also known as either glandular fever or mononucleosis. EBV has been on the list of suspects for MS for decades, but definitive proof has been hard to gather because the virus is so common and multiple sclerosis is so rare...

"Individuals who were not infected with the Epstein-Barr virus virtually never get multiple sclerosis," Prof Alberto Ascherio, from Harvard, told me.

"It's only after Epstein-Barr virus infection that the risk of multiple sclerosis jumps up by over 30-fold."

The team checked for other infections, such as cytomegalovirus, but only EBV had a crystal clear connection with the neurodegenerative disease...

Finding out if a vaccine can prevent multiple sclerosis is going to take decades of work. The earlier ambition is a "therapeutic vaccine" for people who already have MS.

Prof Giovannoni said this would be similar to the shingles vaccine, which is given to people who have already been infected with the chickenpox virus so "even though you've got the virus already, you are boosting the immune system to mount an immune response against the virus and controlling the virus itself."
Details at the link.

08 April 2022

Chinese Christian Cemetery on Hong Kong Island

 One of the many impressive Photos of the Week at The Atlantic.

NOT the skull of an extraterrestrial alien - updated

An archaeological discovery of 13 Conehead-shaped skulls in Mexico has people recalling the famed Saturday Night Live sketch. The bones, which are about 1,000 years old, dating back to 945 A.D. to 1308 A.D., were discovered accidentally during a dig for an irrigation system in the northwest state of Sonora in Mexico. While it’s not unheard of for archaeological sites to be unearthed during modern excavations, the misshapen skulls discovered on the site are fairly uncommon, especially as far north as Sonora. “This was a Hispanic cemetery with 25 skulls, and 13 of them have deformed heads,” Cristina Garcia Moreno, who worked on the project with Arizona State University, told ABC News. “We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads.”
Some news videos of the discovery have described the procedure of cranial deformation as a "rite of passage into adulthood," but clearly deformation to this degree has to be undertaken on a pliable skull of an infant.

There's more information at the Artificial Cranial Deformation page at Wikipedia, where I found the image at right ("Painting by Paul Kane, showing a Chinookan child in the process of having its head flattened, and an adult after the process") and these notes:
Early examples of intentional human cranial deformation predate written history and date back to 45,000 BC in Neanderthal skulls, and to the Proto-Neolithic Homo sapiens component (12th millennium BCE) from Shanidar Cave in Iraq.  It occurred among Neolithic peoples in SW Asia.  The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates' description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, who were named for their practice of cranial modification.
Reposted from 2012 to add information from a new BBC article about cranial modification in Australia:
...they owe their strange appearance not to the blind hand of evolution but to the guiding hand of humanity. Australia's ancient inhabitants were among the first in the world to deliberately transform the shape of their own skulls...

H. erectus had a wide skull and a small braincase, while the unusual Australian skulls are narrow and have large braincases, just like today’s humans do. This makes it highly unlikely that their flat foreheads were shaped by ancient H. erectus genes - and far more likely that they were actually sculpted by human hands...
The modern counterpart to this occurs when parents place babies on their backs to minimize the chances of SIDS:
Encouraging parents to routinely putting babies to sleep on their backs before their soft skulls harden led to a dramatic increase in cases of plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome. A study published last year found almost half of a sample of 440 healthy young babies attending two clinics in Calgary, Canada, showed signs of it.
Reposted from 2014 after encountering some more examples.

When liquids cool by one degree every million years

A "World Cultural Map"

Posted by the World Values Survey.
The cultural map methodology developed by the WVSA Founder Ronald Inglehart and the WVSA Vice-President Christian Welzel asserts that there are two major dimensions of cross cultural variation in the world: traditional values versus secular-rational values and survival values versus self-expression values. The global cultural map shows how scores of societies are located on these two dimensions.

Cited by David Brooks in The New York Times

Global culture wars and thymotic desires

Excerpts from a very interesting op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times:
In the wider public conversation, it was sometimes assumed that nations all around the world would admire the success of the Western democracies and seek to imitate us. It was sometimes assumed that as people “modernized” they would become more bourgeois, consumerist, peaceful — just like us. It was sometimes assumed that as societies modernized, they’d become more secular, just as in Europe and parts of the United States. They’d be more driven by the desire to make money than to conquer others. They’d be more driven by the desire to settle down into suburban homes than by the fanatical ideologies or the sort of hunger for prestige and conquest that had doomed humanity to centuries of war.

This was an optimistic vision of how history would evolve, a vision of progress and convergence. Unfortunately, this vision does not describe the world we live in today. The world is not converging anymore; it’s diverging...

Looking back, we probably put too much emphasis on the power of material forces like economics and technology to drive human events and bring us all together... The fact is that human behavior is often driven by forces much deeper than economic and political self-interest, at least as Western rationalists typically understand these things...

First, human beings are powerfully driven by what are known as the thymotic desires. These are the needs to be seen, respected, appreciated. If you give people the impression that they are unseen, disrespected and unappreciated, they will become enraged, resentful and vengeful. They will perceive diminishment as injustice and respond with aggressive indignation.

Global politics over the past few decades functioned as a massive social inequality machine. In country after country, groups of highly educated urban elites have arisen to dominate media, universities, culture and often political power. Great swaths of people feel looked down upon and ignored. In country after country, populist leaders have arisen to exploit these resentments: Donald Trump in the U.S., Narendra Modi in India, Marine Le Pen in France.

Second, most people have a strong loyalty to their place and to their nation. But over the past few decades many people have felt that their places have been left behind and their national honor has been threatened. In the heyday of globalization, multilateral organizations and global corporations seemed to be eclipsing nation-states.

In country after country, highly nationalistic movements have arisen to insist on national sovereignty and to restore national pride: Modi in India, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Trump in the United States, Boris Johnson in Britain. To hell with cosmopolitanism and global convergence, they say. We’re going to make our own country great again in our own way. Many globalists completely underestimated the power of nationalism to drive history...

The problem is that Western values are not the world’s values. In fact, we in the West are complete cultural outliers.
Way more at the link, from which I've already excerpted too much.  

New words for me: thymos and thymotic

Thymotic (chemistry) Of, related to, or derived from thymotic acid or thymol. 

(philosophy) Of, of related to the thymos

Thymos: that area of the soul where feelings of pride, indignation, shame etc are located.  The etymology is from the Ancient Greek θῡμός (thūmós, “soul, heart”). 

Those with backgrounds in the life sciences will wonder about the relation to "thymus."  It apparently is a "doublet" (One of two or more words in a language that have the same etymological root, but have come to the modern language through different routes...) via the Ancient Greek θύμος (thúmos, “warty excrescence.")

Encountered this morning in an interesting essay by David Brooks (which I will blog separately):
"...human beings are powerfully driven by what are known as the thymotic desires. These are the needs to be seen, respected, appreciated. If you give people the impression that they are unseen, disrespected and unappreciated, they will become enraged, resentful and vengeful. They will perceive diminishment as injustice and respond with aggressive indignation."

Darwin's notebooks returned

05 April 2022

Three movies about living off-the-grid

I recently discovered a Wikipedia page with a List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  I've used Rotten Tomatoes for years as a reasonable first-approximation for deciding whether an unfamiliar movie is worth watching, so I was intrigued to learn that "To date, Leave No Trace holds the site's record, with a rating of 100% and 249 positive reviews."

Our library had the DVD, so now I can report that the movie does not disappoint.  It portrays the life of a father and daughter living off-the-grid in a forest in Oregon, and their re-entry (or not) into mainstream society.  I was particularly pleased that the filmmakers chose not to portray law enforcement and civil authorities as insensitive automatons; the Veterans Administration employees and social workers are shown as caring and supportive in situations that must be recurrently frustrating.  One feels immediate sympathy for the father and especially the young daughter, and the eventual outcome is poignant rather than tragic.  Absolutely worth watching, IMHO.

As I watched Leave No Trace I was immediately reminded of two other movies I enjoyed featuring similar characters, and I was startled to discover that I seem not to have blogged about either of them (I thought I had - I guess the bookmarks are buried in all my cyberclutter).   So here they are:

Frances McDormand's character is not literally "off-the-grid" since she makes use of electricity, but the vibe is similar.  

And Pig:

If you are unfamiliar with the story, you might prefer to skip the trailer, which has some "spoiler" tendencies.

"The Overview Effect" and the interconnectedness of all humans

In February, 1971, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced the little understood phenomenon sometimes called the “Overview Effect”. He describes being completely engulfed by a profound sense of universal connectedness. Without warning, he says, a feeing of bliss, timelessness, and connectedness began to overwhelm him. He describes becoming instantly and profoundly aware that each of his constituent atoms were connected to the fragile planet he saw in the window and to every other atom in the Universe. He described experiencing an intense awareness that Earth, with its humans, other animal species, and systems were all one synergistic whole. He says the feeling that rushed over him was a sense of interconnected euphoria. He was not the first—nor the last—to experience this strange “cosmic connection”...

Their experiences, along with dozens of other similar experiences described by other astronauts, intrigue scientists who study the brain. This “Overview Effect”, or acute awareness of all matter as synergistically connected, sounds somewhat similar to certain religious experiences described by Buddhist monks, for example. Where does it come from and why? ...

Mitchell believes that perhaps both the theologians and scientists have missed the mark.
“All I can suggest to the mystic and the theologian is that our gods have been too small; they fill the universe. And to the scientist all I can say is that the gods do exist; they are the eternal, connected, and aware Self experienced by all intelligent beings."
Text from The Daily Galaxy.  Photo: The Sombrero Galaxy (M104), from The HubbleSite, via Conservation Report.

Reposted from 2012 because the concept is important.  I'll add this related scene from Midnight Mass where the character Erin channels Carl Sagan in her death scene -

Time to resurrect an anthem from my youth

More than 300 dogs found dead in Ukrainian shelter after weeks without food or water due to the war, charity says
"According to the charity UAnimals, the shelter's 485 dogs remained locked in their cages from the beginning of the war in late February until the beginning of April, after Russian soldiers left Borodyanka and charity volunteers were able to return to the shelter. During that time, the dogs were left without any food or water, the charity said. By the time the volunteers finally gained access to the building on April 1, all but 150 of the 485 animals had died."

Minimal blogging in the weeks ahead

Regular visitors here will have noticed a slowdown in my already-leisurely rate of posting new material.  This is a seasonal phenomenon - the arrival of spring in the Midwest brings outdoor chores and outdoor recreational opportunities, and is coupled with the deadline for filing income taxes.  In that setting, the addition of new material to TYWKIWDBI falls way down the to-do list.

I have always suggested that new readers visit just once a week, which is about the time frame for new material to fill the front page of the blog; this time of year, daily visits will generally be a waste of a click.

(editorial note:  this post was initially flagged as "spam" and rejected for publication by Blogger.  ??!!  This also happened with the other post this morning about movies.  Has anyone else using Blogger encountered this apparent glitch recently?)

01 April 2022

Chef shows fancy and simple ways to dice an onion

Divertimento #191

Father, forgive me.  It has been about 4 months since my last linkfest, and my "gifs to blog" folder is bulging.  I have 127 links to share with you...
Note some gifs may need to be unmuted (or muted).
Antique Dutch amusement game using a spinning top
The classic scene from "Breaking Bad" ("I am the one who knocks")
Mantraps from the Vietnamese war
Trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Dashcam view at 260 MPH
Removing facial hair by threading
If you are lost in the woods, you can start a fire with Doritos

Live jellycam at the Monterey Bay Acquarium
The Onagadori is a rare breed of long-tailed chicken
Snake climbing a tree [perhaps "scaling a tree" would be a better term...]
An orangutan driving a golf cart (quite skillfully)
Penguin escapes from a calving glacier
Halitrephes maasi jelly [brief, but worth fullscreen viewing]
Bird nest box timelapse of empty box to first egg
Bird does standing back flips ("witness the fitness")
Dulla of a camel [unmute the video]
Birds crash to the ground when chased by a raptor
Finch hatchlings have highly reflective beaks

Nature and science
The bottom of a dropped slinky doesn't fall immediately
Tree seeds helicoptering to the ground
The difficulty of navigating weightlessness
Several views of a tidal bore
Spherical ice balls
"Sneaker wave" at a seashore (suggest fullscreen)
The flooding of the Mediterranean Desert
Coriolis force explained

Impressive or clever
Boy catches bass with his bare hand
Complex joint in a wood-framed house
Tree harvester gets rid of that nasty forest for you
Crowd waves 45,000 lightsticks
Fore-edge painting on book pages now done by computer
"Billie Jean" played on door stoppers
Rubik's cube solved in 47 seconds.  By a three-year-old girl.
Kitchen drizzle tool

Sports and Athleticism
Olympic skater landing a quad
Super slo-mo of pole vault
The choreography of "Rocky"
Soccer player scores three own goals in a game
Winter basketball outdoors
Ziplining in Colombia
Zaouli (a traditional dance)

Fails and wtf
The result of a broken oil pipeline
Man forgets to turn off propane after grilling
Bicyclist annoys a bull unnecessarily
Worst round ever on Wheel of Fortune

Humorous or cheerful
Snowball fight in 1896
Deer scores a soccer goal - and celebrates!
Excitement at a Final Four buzzer-beater can't exceed that of these third-graders
How a lantern fish lure works

The embedded images are selections from the sixth annual compilation of "Superb Owls" at The Atlantic.  Identities of the owls and the photographers at the link.

Relatedthe silence of an owl's flight [may need to unmute the video]
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