30 May 2022

"Meteor storm" (didn't happen)

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

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

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

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

Addendum:  no storm - not even a decent shower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 May 2022

Recent "Pearls Before Swine"

More pearls.


The Onion doesn't hold back

Word for the day: "originalism"

“What principle of constitutional self-government requires that the permissible age to purchase an AR-15 should be 18 rather than 21? A recent ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the right of 18-year-olds to buy what most of us would call ‘assault weapons.’ Its reasoning? ‘America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army.’ In fact, the enlistment age for the Continental Army was 16 — just 15 with parental consent. Some served at age 14. Is this a sufficient legal and historical basis to allow young teens to purchase nearly military-grade weapons in 2022? This type of 'originalism’ is indistinguishable from idiocy.”
-- Michael Duffy, Washington Post

26 May 2022

"Hot dog filler"

The crash of a tractor-trailer spilled about seven tons of "hot dog filler" onto the side of a Pennsylvania interstate highway.  

25 May 2022

Absurdly filthy rich

Reposted from 2011.  You can access all the NonSequitur comics here.

"The war is not meant to be won. It is meant to be continuous."

"The war is not meant to be won.  It is meant to be continuous.  The essential act of modern warfare is the destruction of the produce of human labor... The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects, and its object is not victory over Eurasia or Eastasia, but to keep the very structure of society intact."
From the dialogue of the movie 1984Via for screencap photo.

Reposted from 2011 because it still has relevance.

"On second thought, I WILL have the garlic bread."

From The New Yorker.  Reposted from 2011.

Quvenzhané, star of "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Excerpts from a review in Roger Ebert's Journal at the Chicago Sun-Times:
If there is one 2012 movie that seems to have a lock on a best picture nomination, it is "Beasts of the Southern Wild." And if there is a single reason its early viewers have loved it so much, it is an 8-year-old girl named Quvenzhané Wallis, who was six when she filmed it. Here is a case of a great role finding the perfect actress to play it.

"My computer has trouble pronouncing names," I told Quvenzhané not long ago in my living room.

"That's okay," she said. We worked together on a phonetic spelling: kwa van je nay. A beautiful name for this composed young woman, who deserves her own Oscar nomination, and whose nickname is Nazie.

The film is the feature debut of Benh Zeitlin, whose first short subject was made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's set in The Bathtub, an isolated island area offshore from New Orleans, where the poorest of the poor scramble to survive. Shanties perch on stilts in the delta marshlands. A boat is made from the bed of a pickup truck. The world of prosperity could be on a distant planet. We focus on a girl named Hushpuppy, whose mother has disappeared, whose father is loving but sometimes harsh, and whose determination is indomitable. The feeling is post-apocalyptic, and there are rumors of another storm on the way, one that will flood the islands and their people.

"Beasts" opens on July 6, but is already famous in film circles. At Sundance 2012, it won the Grand Jury Prize. At Cannes, it won the Camera d'Or as best first film. At both, the small girl from Louisiana won hearts with her spunky, straightforward manner in the face of calamity.
(The Ebert source has undergone linkrot since 2012).  Here is the official trailer:

Reposted from 2012 because I rewatched the movie last night (it's streaming on Amazon).  Ten years ago I rated the movie 4+ on my 0-4 rating scale ("worth watching again").  Last night I gave it a rare 4.1 - an improvement perhaps reflective of my increasing maturity, or perhaps because of a cannabis gummy on board.

"Flood in the Desert"

"Just before midnight on March 12, 1928, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, one of the biggest dams in the country blew apart, releasing a wall of water 20 stories high. Ten thousand people lived downstream. Flood in the Desert tells the story of the St. Francis Dam disaster, which not only destroyed hundreds of lives and millions of dollars’ worth of property; it also washed away the reputation of William Mulholland, the father of modern Los Angeles, and jeopardized larger plans to transform the West. A self-taught engineer, the 72-year-old Mulholland had launched the city’s remarkable growth by building both an aqueduct to pipe water 233 miles from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the St. Francis Dam, to hold a full year’s supply of water for Los Angeles. Now Mulholland was promoting an immense new project: the Hoover Dam. The collapse of the St. Francis Dam was a colossal engineering and human disaster that might have slowed the national project to tame the West. But within days a concerted effort was underway to erase the dam’s failure from popular memory."
A fascinating documentary I watched earlier this week.  Available on DVD from your library, streaming on PBS, or at the American Experience website.

Dog meat

The image speaks for itself.  Photo credit Aaron Gekoski/The Evidence Project, from a gallery at The Guardian.

U.S. helpless to prevent tragedies

UVALDE, TX—In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed at least 21 individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Idaho resident Kathy Miller, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Addendum:  So who's to blame???
It’s the parents,” Pollack told Ingraham. “It’s your responsibility where you’re sending your children to school … You need to check where your kids go to school. You need to go back to school and see. Is there a single point of entry? Do you have guards at the school?”

He went on to suggest that it’s better for parents to take their kids out “of public school and put them in a private school because a lot of these private schools, they take security way more serious … Parents it’s your responsibility where you take your children.” Ingraham was very pleased with that analysis. “Andrew is exactly right,” she concluded.

Pollack has previously expressed the idea that regulating guns is not the answer to preventing school shootings, and has advocated for schools to put in more “safety” measures like barriers, bulletproof glass and security officers. Ingraham pressed him on that point, stating that “[schools] still don’t have those safety mechanisms in place”.

There you go: it’s all the parents fault! If you don’t have the money to send your kids to private school then it’s your fault if they get shot!

Here's another analysis of absurd claims and conspiracy theories

RelatedTearful Uvalde Residents Thank Police for Protecting Parking Lot from Gunman.

24 May 2022

If you find bright yellow spots on your garage floor

Here in the Upper Midwest, one of the rites of spring is to hook up the garden hose and wash away all the crap that has built up on the floor under the car during the winter months.  When I got ready to do so last week, I was startled to see four or five yellow spots.  The embed above may not do the color intensity justice; they weren't just yellow - they seemed to be of neon brightness.

I immediately popped the hood of my car to check the brake fluid, and to my delight and surprise, the reservoir was totally full.  The position of the spots was midline, not near the debris from the tires and wheelwells, and not near the axles.  

So I asked Mr. Google, and discovered that these stains result when road salt gets up onto the hot components of the exhaust system.  Those components often are coated with zinc as an antioxidant, and the road salt can catalyze a reaction resulting in the formation of a yellow zinc oxide, which is most often spotted in the snow under cars parked outdoors.

I had my Subaru in today for its 11-year checkup, and the staff confirmed that the exhaust system shows no evidence of corrosion.  So this was just an incidental finding.  Good to know.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" trailer

Great special effects and I think an interesting vehicle for Tilda Swinton.  I'm looking forward to seeing it.

"I don't think I did anything wrong"

So says the woman who jumped into the spider monkey enclosure at a zoo in order to feed them Cheetos. 
An El Paso woman jumping into the spider monkey enclosure at the zoo and feeding two of the animals Cheetos in May 2021. For the woman in the video, the backlash was swift. She was arrested and lost her job at an El Paso law firm, and received harassment online from people concerned with the health of the monkeys. She now faces a pending criminal trespass case...

“Well, I don’t think I did anything wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. I did not hurt anyone,” Rae said. 

Rae says she has no plans of apologizing to the zoo for what happened. When asked if she learned any lessons from the incident and the fallout afterward, Rae responded, saying, “I learned just keep the Cheetos to myself. I can’t share.”

Video at the link. 

21 May 2022

Reconsidering "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

The television special in 1964 was off my radar as I headed off to college that year, but an article by Caitlyn Flanagan in The Atlantic whets my interest:
There’s a lot in Rudolph that people don’t seem to remember. At one point, the Abominable Snowmonster tries to murder Rudolph in front of his parents by smashing a giant stalactite on his head. As our gentle hero lies facedown, concussed and unresponsive, his own girlfriend—the beautiful, long-lashed Clarice—wonders aloud why the snowman won’t put the little reindeer out of his misery: “Why doesn’t he get it over with?” This was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, not The Third Man. Meanwhile, back at Santa’s workshop—a phrase that should connote only the jolliest of associations—a dark tale is unfolding. Santa, it turns out, presides over a nonunion shop where underproducing elves are deprived of breaks and humiliated; they dream not of Christmas, but of escape. Poorly constructed toys are thrown onto a bare and frozen island, where they cry and wander. How long have they been there? A year? A thousand years? One of the toys, A Dolly for Sue, looks perfectly fine—why has she been stuck with the misfits? Rankin finally admitted the nature of Dolly’s flaw in 2005, when he revealed that she suffered from “psychiatric problems.” The Island of Misfit Toys, it turns out, is but another atoll in the gulag archipelago.
Interesting.  She didn't even include that one of the elves did a full-mouth extraction on the snowmonster.  I've placed a request with my library for the DVD to find out what I've been missing for the past six decades.

A reminder that whales have hands

Front fin bones of a gray whale.  Please stop killing them and bursting their tympanic membranes with underwater explosions.  Pic via.

20 May 2022

Foraging for food

Today I received an email from the Wisconsin DNR with guidelines on how to harvest food items from state property.  Guidelines will certainly vary from state to state and in different countries, but I think these are worth sharing:
Under state law, foraging at state parks, forests, natural areas, recreation and wildlife areas does not require a permit for the following:

Edible fruits such as apples, plums, pears, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, juneberries and strawberries;

Edible nuts like walnuts, hickory nuts, acorns and other similar nuts from trees and shrubs;

Wild mushrooms including morel, oyster, lobster, chanterelle, giant puffball and hen of the woods varieties;

Wild asparagus and watercress;

Garlic mustard and other invasive species listed in Ch. NR 40, Wis. Adm. Code.

Foraging is allowed only for personal consumption by the collector. Gathering seeds, leaves, stems, roots or other plant parts is not allowed — including medicinal herbs and wild leeks or ramps.

Some properties may be deemed a “non-collection site.” When in doubt, contact the property manager or call the DNR to see if a property has any restrictions.

No foraging is allowed for species listed as endangered or threatened. Specific rules apply to harvesting wild rice and ginseng, so know before you go.

Foraging for food is part art, part science, part luck, and part fun! It's another way to add to your outside springtime adventures.

The "love theme" from "Blade Runner" (Vangelis)

Posted for the music by Vangelis.  I had assumed the saxophone melody was synthesized, but apparently it was performed by Dick Morrissey.  Beautiful, haunting music.

Reposted from 2012 to append this trailer for the upcoming sequel:

An article at The Hollywood Reporter discusses the obvious questions of whether Ryan Gosling's character is Deckard's son, whether he is a replicant, and whether replicants can have children (answers not given).

Reposted from 2017 to make note of the death of Vangelis.  Here are some excerpts from his biography posted in The Guardian today:
Born Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou in 1943, Vangelis won an Oscar for his 1981 Chariots of Fire soundtrack. Its uplifting piano motif became world-renowned, and reached No 1 in the US charts, as did the accompanying soundtrack album.

Mostly self-taught in music, Vangelis grew up in Athens and formed his first band in 1963... his LPs Heaven and Hell (1975) and Albedo 0.39 (1976) each reached the UK Top 40, and the former was used to soundtrack Carl Sagan’s popular TV series Cosmos... His score to Blade Runner is equally celebrated for its evocation of a sinister future version of Los Angeles...

Later in the decade he scored the Palme d’Or-winning Costa-Gavras political drama Missing, starring Jack Lemmon; the Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins drama The Bounty, and the Mickey Rourke-starring Francesco. He worked again with the Blade Runner director, Ridley Scott, on 1992 film 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and elsewhere during the 90s, soundtracked Roman Polanski’s Bitter Moon and documentaries by Jacques Cousteau.

19 May 2022

A heckofa difficult cryptic puzzle

I have subscribed to Harper's Magazine for as long as I can remember -  probably since the last glacial maximum - primarily for the challenge of solving the monthly cryptic puzzle. 

Embedded above is one of the most challenging ones I have encountered in recent years.  To solve the puzzle you need to fold the pattern into a cube.  Then the entered answers may be entered normally or backwards.

It took me three evenings to suss this one out (when I'm stumped I prefer to walk away and hope my subconscious will work on it while I do other things).  

No spoilers here, but if terminally frustrated puzzlers want to email me at the blog's address in the right sidebar, I can offer some subtle suggestions to get you jump-started.

17 May 2022

Video of scenarios made in physics simulator

Quite amazing, really.  I am old enough to remember when a physics simulator involved trying to land a ship on the moon.  I have a couple simple ones on my phone, but this one takes the graphics to a whole new level.

More video examples (huge bump in road, cars chained together etc) at Kottke.  The game is here.

World wheat crops under threat

The cartoon above was originally a joke.  I saved it about 30 years ago in a humor scrapbook, the pages of which I blogged in 2020.  It's no longer a simple laughing matter, as an article in Bloomber this week explains:
As Russia’s invasion chokes off Ukrainian wheat exports, pushing up bread and noodle prices, the global harvest faces an added test: extreme weather.
Droughts, flooding and heatwaves threaten output from the U.S. to France and India, compounding shrinking production in Ukraine. Just about every major producing region is facing one threat or another. The one notable exception is Russia, which is shaping up for a bumper crop and stands to benefit from the rising prices and limited supply elsewhere.
Dryness plaguing the U.S. Central Plains has already led some growers to write off parched hard red winter wheat, used by millers and bakers for bread flour. Harvests in top producer Kansas start next month, and output will fall “well below” the five-year average, said Aaron Harries, vice president of research and operations for Kansas Wheat. Crop insurance agents expect some fields to yield zero to five bushels an acre, versus the normal 35 to 40 bushels, he said... Similar dueling weather problems are playing out across the border. Cool temperatures delayed seeding in Canada, and producers are now trying to plant in fields that are either too wet or too dry.
Related:  An analysis with a gloom-and-doom viewpoint from an op-ed columnist at The Guardian
Many people assume that the food crisis was caused by a combination of the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine. While these are important factors, they aggravate an underlying problem...

...global food, like global finance, is a complex system, that develops spontaneously from billions of interactions. Complex systems have counterintuitive properties. They are resilient under certain conditions, as their self-organising properties stabilise them. But as stress escalates, these same properties start transmitting shocks through the network. Beyond a certain point, a small disturbance can tip the entire system over its critical threshold, whereupon it collapses, suddenly and unstoppably...

So here’s what sends cold fear through those who study the global food system. In recent years, just as in finance during the 2000s, key nodes in the food system have swollen, their links have become stronger, business strategies have converged and synchronised, and the features that might impede systemic collapse (“redundancy”, “modularity”, “circuit breakers” and “backup systems”) have been stripped away, exposing the system to “globally contagious” shocks.

On one estimate, just four corporations control 90% of the global grain trade. The same corporations have been buying into seed, chemicals, processing, packing, distribution and retail. In the course of 18 years, the number of trade connections between the exporters and importers of wheat and rice doubled. Nations are now polarising into super-importers and super-exporters. Much of this trade passes through vulnerable chokepoints, such as the Turkish Straits (now obstructed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), the Suez and Panama canals and the Straits of Hormuz, Bab-el-Mandeb and Malacca...
Continue reading at the source article.

16 May 2022

Peephole in the woods

The University of Wisconsin Arboretum in Madison has several ponds that serve as stormwater catchment areas.  The ponds are full this time of year and home to an abundance of turtles, frogs, salamanders, etc.  This year a couple sandhill cranes decided to nest on the reed vegetation next to the viewing platform, so the canvas curtains are down -

The male is behind her, wading in the pond scavenging tasty treats.  Elsewhere in the arboretum another couple was foraging in the shrubbery section -

- and a couple tom turkeys were putting on a display for an unimpressed hen:

15 May 2022

The "vomiting camel" pattern

Explained in a video at Financial Times, but will be of interest only to stock market technicians/chartists, and of use to nobody.

Sapiosexual defined

"Sapiophile" is also valid: "A person who is attracted, whether it be sexually, romantically, or otherwise, to intelligence or intelligent people rather than to the physical appearance."

"Conflict entrepreneurs" explained

"In her 2021 book “High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out,” journalist Amanda Ripley explains what can turn disagreement — inevitable in any group or community — into potentially ruinous “high conflict”: a moment “when conflict clarifies into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an us and a them.”

In high conflict, the nuanced middle flees the debate, leaving only the most extreme voices to shout from their two distant poles. The threats feel existential. And the normal rules of engagement — the ones that allow a society to function — cease to apply.

The runaway blaze of high conflict is stoked by what Ripley calls “conflict entrepreneurs”: those who have something to gain from the conflict’s continuing, and who thus help it along rather than seek to tone it down, bundling conflicts together to make them feel worse and more distressing. These people delight in the fight, and in adding fuel to the fire...

When not calcified into a state of high alarm, conflict can be positive — it can force us to reckon with our own beliefs and those of our neighbors. Conflict can motivate us to be better people, and compel us to seek solutions that might actually create radical and productive societal change...

The constructive approach is one of curiosity and recognition — a commitment to finding the common ground that must and always does exist, and to not throwing more fuel on the fire.
Excerpts from an op-ed piece on abortion in today's Washington Post.

12 May 2022

An early sign of summer

The first Monarch butterfly of the year in Wisconsin was seen two days ago in Green County (on the Illinois border).  Today we found 29 Monarch eggs (the white dots on the undersurface of the leaves) on about a dozen 3-4" tall milkweed spears in our yard here in a suburb of Madison.

The plants in the photo are emerging between a concrete driveway and a granite boulder (the retained heat of both facilitates early germination from the underground rhizome).  The "No Mow May" policy is resulting in lots more milkweed being accessible to the Monarchs in the grassy lawn as well (more on this later).

11 May 2022

Lace bug with beautiful wings

I presume most of those colors are structural rather than pigments.  The colors are neither pigments nor structural, but are caused by "thin film interference", the same process as in soap bubbles and oil puddles (with a tip of the blogging hat to reader Drabkikker for the info).  There are no useful comments at the via.

A short story

Credit: Phil Shaw.

Duelling yard signs

From Alexandria, Virginia (incidentally my first home town, late 1940s):
They started to wonder what that second sign, available on Etsy for $31.95, was supposed to say. Was it a direct rebuke of the idea that all were welcome in their community? Was it an attack on the messaging of the Democratic Party, which often uses such phrases as rallying cries? Or was it just trying to be funny?

Either way, many neighbors said, the dueling yard signs made public a sort of tension that is rarely articulated in an area proud of its understated brand of liberalism...

On the block of Oronoco Street where the yard signs appeared, some residents said they almost never discuss their views on housing or politics. They much prefer to learn the names of each other’s dogs and kids, exchanging pleasantries but respecting each other’s privacy.

That dynamic made it all the more unusual when another sign — an apparent response to the response — appeared in the front yard on Oronoco Street.

This one said: “In this house we believe that using snark and sarcasm and pedantic, overly complex language to respond to others’ somewhat meaningless virtue-signaling is just divisive and trollish behavior, but hey, signs are fun.”

Embedded image cropped and brightened from the original at the Washington Post

Los Angeles County has more people than some entire states

The blue ones.  

How would you explain this?

Embedded above is the nutrition label for McCain Flavour Maker Smokey BBQ Fries.  It appears to show that a serving of the fries gains calories when it is baked (baked, mind you - not deep fried).

Explanation at explainlikeimfive.


The New York Times has removed the word “fetus” from its Wordle answers to keep the game “distinct from the news”, a move apparently related to last week’s leaked Roe v Wade supreme court draft ruling...

The game’s answer-list is pre-written and assigned to a date.  “When we discovered last week that this particular word would be featured today, we switched it for as many solvers as possible,” the newspaper said...

“At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news,” the Times said... When the Times acquired Wordle it also removed words such as “lynch,” “slave” and “wench”.
I understand that some people are offended by words, but I think this is an overreaction.

Revisiting Kottke - updated

The more perspicacious among you will have noticed that the most recent six posts have been sourced from Kottke.org.  I'll explain by starting with a backstory.

I created TYWKIWDBI back in 2007.  That is a long time ago in internet years, but I was not a pioneer.  When I wrote that first post, I was modeling my blog after a group of blogs I had been visiting and reading for probably ten years, such as J-Walk, Nothing to do with Arbroath, Neatorama, Cynical-CPresurfer ... and Kottke.

I compiled a system whereby I would visit some daily, some on specific days of the week, some on weekends - so that I could monitor everything.  It was of course a hopelessly impossible task (as evidenced by the lengthy "blogrolls" at the bottom of the right sidebar here on the front page.

Over the years, news sites (BBC, NYT, StarTribune, Guardian etc) and aggregators (Reddit, Digg) displaced blogs from the "daily" reads.  And time limitations meant that the once-a-week blogs were visited less often.  And thus, Kottke fell through the cracks.

And that's a shame, because Kottke is very much like TYWKIWDBI in terms of content, format, and worldview.  A discussion thread at Ask Metafilter discussed the question of what blogs are like Kottke?  I was pleased to see TYWKIWDBI offered as one of the choices.

Jason Kottke started his blog in 1998 - about ten years before me.  
"Frequent topics of interest among the 26,000+ posts include art, technology, science, visual culture, design, music, cities, food, architecture, sports, endless nonsense, and carefully curated current events, all of it lightly contextualized. Basically, it’s the world’s complete knowledge, relentlessly filtered through my particular worldview, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails."
There is an interesting interview with Jason Kottke at Rebecca's Pocket:
"Many blogs, including the most visible ones, are vertically focused on things like Web 2.0 (TechCrunch), politics (Instapundit), gadgets (Gizmodo), or celebrity gossip (The Superficial). Kottke.org isn't like that; the only unifying factor is I write about and link to whatever I find interesting. Not that I don't focus mainly on a small groups of topics I'm interested in (technology, photography, food, design, economics, science, etc.) but the day-to-day or week-to-week focus varies widely. Which makes the site an acquired taste; you actually have to read it for a bit to get the gist."
That's the backstory.  Kottke is now back on my daily read list, displacing BoingBoing.

Addendum:  On May 9, Jason Kottke announced that he is taking an extended blogcation ("sabbatical") which will last several months.  I mention this because his announcement incorporates a "blogroll" with many of the sites he regularly visits:
P.P.P.S. A quick blogroll if you’re looking for sites and newsletters to keep you busy while I’m gone. In no particular order, a non-exhaustive list: The Kid Should See This, The Morning News, Waxy, Colossal, Curious About Everything, Open Culture, Drawing Links, Clive Thompson @ Medium, Cup of Jo, swissmiss, Storythings, things magazine, Present & Correct, Spoon & Tamago, Dense Discovery, Austin Kleon, NextDraft, Tressie McMillan Cottom, Poetry Is Not a Luxury, A Thing or Two, The Honest Broker, Interconnected, The Whippet, Craig Mod, Why is this interesting?, Sidebar, The Prepared, Life Is So Beautiful, Fave 5, Sentiers, The Fox Is Black, and Scrapbook Chronicles. Happy hunting!
All of the sites are linked on his post.  Even though Kottke's interests are worldview are similar to mine, his favorite sites are totally different from mine (in the right sidebar of TYWKIWDBI, but way out of date).  I plan to explore those links, and suggest you consider the same.


The trailer above is for a wonderful documentary movie with a focus not on the plants or techniques per se, but instead on the principles of gardening.  The subject matter is the famous Les Quatre Vents, a private garden (occasionally open to the public) in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, and on its creator/gardener, Francis Cabot.  

This is the first time I've heard the the word "numinous" used in a movie.  
1) Of or relating to a numen (divinity); indicating the presence of a divinity. [from mid 17th c.] "His interest in numinous objects led him on a quest for the Holy Grail."

2) Evoking a sense of the mystical, sublime, or transcendent; awe-inspiring.

The movie is streaming on Amazon, and will be available as a DVD from your local library. 

More information at the Garden Conservancy.

08 May 2022


A flash game in which you convert a pattern such as the top one into the bottom one, by clicking on the hexagons to rotate them.  Each pattern appears to have a unique solution.  I found it to be interesting, but frankly not very challenging.

The images above are only embeds; the game is at this link.  Via Neatorama.

Reposted from 2011.

06 May 2022

How to bet on sports

Excerpts from a newsletter by John Authers at Bloomberg:
In a new paper, Moskowitz recounts the results gleaned from more than 100,000 betting contracts from the largest Las Vegas and online sports gambling books across four U.S. professional sports leagues: the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, Major League Baseball , and the National Hockey League, with multiple contracts per game that allow for bets on who wins, by how much, and total points scored. The contracts he covered spanned three decades...

Moneyline does offer more of a chance to make money, because bettors are prone to a classic behavioral error. The natural tendency to want the underdog to win, combined with the hope of a higher payoff by backing the team with the longer odds, means that persistent betting on the favorite will generally make money. Moneyline favorites tend to be on more generous odds than they should be, thanks to the enthusiasm for betting on less-favored sides. “It’s not that people think that the underdog is likely to win,” says Moskowitz. “It’s more that they are willing to pay a premium to have a small chance of a big payout.”..

That leads to the greatest objection to sports betting; it involves an inverse-Robin Hood redistribution of money from the poor to the rich. To make this even more distasteful, it also brings the chance of a harmful gambling addiction for people who can least afford it. Sports betting is ultimately as depressingly regressive as state and national lotteries, in which the minuscule chance of a huge pay-out tends only to appeal to those with very little money, who will mostly have even less as a result of buying lottery tickets. The same thing happens when people bet on longshots in the forlorn hope of big winnings...

Survival Tips:  Don't bet on sports.

The Boycott Effect

"The rate at which solid particles sediment under the action of gravity can be greatly enhanced if the walls of the settling vessel are inclined rather than vertical. This phenomenon, often referred to as "The Boycott Effect", plays an increasingly important role in a variety of separation processes because, in principle, the sedimentation rate can be enhanced by several orders of magnitude if the vessel is properly designed."
Both the term and the concept were new to me.  You learn something every day.

An interesting Danish children's TV show

You can’t blame the children if their thoughts were elsewhere. On a stage before them in a heated studio in Copenhagen stood five adults in bathrobes. There was a brief moment of silence, as faces turned serious. Having discussed it for days before in school, the children knew what was coming next. Mr. Schow gave a little nod, and the adults cast off their robes.

Facing the children, and the cameras, they stood completely naked, like statues, with their hands and arms folded behind their backs.

And so began a recording of the latest episode of an award-winning Danish children’s program, “Ultra Strips Down,” which is shown on Ultra, the on-demand children’s channel of the national broadcaster, DR. The topic today: skin and hair...

Mr. Schow, 29, who helped develop the concept of the show after a producer came up with the idea, said the point was also to counter the daily bombardment of young people with images of perfect — unrealistic — bodies. The adults are not actors, but volunteers.

“Perhaps some people are like, ‘Oh, my God, they are combining nakedness and kids,’” Mr. Schow said. “But this has nothing to do with sex, it’s about seeing the body as natural, the way kids do.”..

Asked during the program on skin and hair why she decided to take part, one of the adults, Ule, 76, said she wanted to show the children that perfect bodies are rare and that what they see on social media is often misleading.

“On Facebook or Instagram, many people are fashion models,” she said. “Us here, we have ordinary bodies. I hope you will understand that normal bodies look like this,” she told the audience, pointing at her naked self...

“Ninety percent of the bodies you see on social media are perfect, but that is not how 90 percent of the world looks,” he said. “We have extra fat, or hair, or pimples. We want to show children from an early age that this is fine.”
The story continues at The New York Times.

And a tip of the blogging hat to reader Kolo Jezdec, who provides a link to the TV program's website in his comment.  Four of the TV episodes are viewable there, but note that all the content is in Danish.

Cutting a tape ball

 I know what the next question is, so here's "making a tape ball": 

Panlong ancient road

Located in far western China along the route of the original silk road.  Visitor information here.

"It 'may be true' that COVID vaccines cause AIDS"

In a video interview published on the right-wing social media platform Rumble, Sen. Ron Johnson said it “may be true” that vaccines against COVID-19 cause AIDS. 

Johnson was being interviewed by anti-vaccine lawyer Todd Callender, who alleged that the shots induce AIDS and that the FDA knew so when the vaccines were approved for emergency use. 

“The way to approach this is from a criminal point of view because that’s what has happened. And until we start holding people accountable, [Dr. Anthony] Fauci number one, you’re going to see people still falling out, still getting sick,” Calendar said. “You’ve got more than a hundred doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. they purposefully gave people AIDS. They knew this.”

Johnson responded that it’s possible the allegations are true, but that anti-vaccine activists need to wait for public opinion to be on their side before criminally charging health officials. 

“Let me challenge you there, that’s way down the road,” Johnson said. “You’ve gotta do one step at a time. Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That’s the narrative, that’s what the vast majority of the public accepts. So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open to ‘woah, these vaccine injuries are real, why?’ You’ve got to do it step by step, you can’t leap to crimes against humanity, you can’t leap to another Nuremberg trial.” 
It's not often that I'm at a loss for words, but the words I do have at the moment are ones I shouldn't commit to print.  I'll just leave this here to illustrate the (gotta stop typing)...

Athletic jersey sells for $9,300,000

"The jersey worn by Argentina legend Diego Maradona when he scored the infamous “Hand of God” goal during a 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England was auctioned for $9.3 million. 

The price smashed a record for a game-worn jersey set in 2019, when one used by Babe Ruth while he was playing for the New York Yankees went for $5.6 million. It was also the most ever paid for a piece of sports memorabilia, according to Sotheby’s. 

Maradona’s jersey had been owned by English midfielder Steve Hodge, who swapped with the Argentine star after England lost 2-1." 
I'll come back to this later in a post pondering the meaning of placing value on sentimental and historic items. For now I'll just leave this here without comment.
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