26 September 2022

The immense urban/rural divide in modern politics. And some interesting cannabis attitudes.


In 2018 I wrote a post for the blog entitled "Blue dot in a red state," illustrating how the metropolitan areas of Minnesota voted overwhelmingly blue (Democratic), while the rest of the state voted overwhelmingly red (Republican).  The phenomenon clearly exists nationwide.

This week the StarTribune reported the results of a statewide poll that covered a variety of topics, but most importantly the upcoming midterms.  I've embedded one salient chart at the top.  Hennepin and Ramsey counties comprise the bulk of the metropolitan Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Tim Walz is the currently-seated Democratic governor.  His support is intense in the cities, but not in the rest of the state. 

This is also interesting - and perhaps surprising:


In the past two years, support for legalization of recreational marijuana has increased among Democrats and Independents and fallen among Republicans, which is perhaps not surprising.  But support for legal recreational cannabis has also fallen among those age 18-34 and 35-49 years of age, while rising among older Minnesotans. Not sure how to explain that.  

The forests of Iceland

 
Really? you ask.  Yes, and certainly unexpected by most of us based on our standard perceptions of the country.  This is a ten-minute video with perhaps a bit too many "selfie" camera views, but the narration is very good and the content is interesting just because it is so surprising.

23 September 2022

Ambush


There is a patch of ground next to the driveway that used to be planted with a variety of ornamental flowers and foliage plants.  About 5-10 years ago some goldenrod appeared, and was happy with the sun exposure and soil, so it proliferated.  As did the milkweed (which has happily colonized all of our gardening areas).  

Last week as I walked back from the mailbox, my eye noticed something unusual on one of the milkweed leaves (highlighted with the red circle).


It was a Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor), which I've noticed previously on other milkweed leaves.  When I went over to take his/her photo, I noticed a second and a third one...


The reason we have allowed the goldenrod to proliferate is that it serves as an absolute magnet for pollinators - bees especially, but also flies, beetles, and some butterflies.  Nectar and pollen sources are particularly valuable at our latitude in late summer/early fall when other flowering plants are subsiding [the goldenrod is already going to seed, but the New England Asters have taken over as nectar and pollen sources].

I postulated that it wasn't a coincidence that these three frogs were on the milkweed plants in the goldenrod patch, so I did a quick survey around the front yard.  It didn't take more than five minutes, because these little guys are not hard to spot when you look for them.  Three frogs on three milkweeds in the goldenrod patch, none on the 75+ other milkweeds scattered around the other flowerbeds.  

There's a reason these frogs are called Hyla VERSICOLOR


For the past several weeks we've had frogs on our windows picking off mosquitoes and moths that come to the windows at night.  Coincidentally, this week I found a blog post at Naturespeak about the Gray Tree Frog, and learned that they can change colors:
It takes around a half hour for an individual to change color. They do so by controlling the pigment in their star-shaped skin cells. Though they can only go from green to gray and back again, they can also control the intensity of the dark splotch pattern found on the back. The sides appear to stay gray for the most part regardless of the chosen back color. Against natural settings, Gray Tree Frogs are masters of camouflage. Since the color choice is primarily intended for the daytime rest period (they are nocturnal) Gray Tree Frogs can pass the daylight hours in either color mode depending on background.  In the photo below, this fellow was resting up against the chunk of bark and his pattern matched perfectly. The second photo is of the same frog at night, at which time he was in green mode...
Photo credit Gerry Wykes.

Reposted from 2010 to accompany a new post.

"Artificial blowhole" harvests wave energy


This video is well worth five minutes of your time.  The technology is harvesting not tidal energy, but wave energy, and as noted it can be incorporated into preexisting or planned barriers that are needed for other purposes (harbors, erosion control).  

I find it interesting that the turbines are driven not by the salt water, but by the displaced air, and that they use the incoming air, not the "blowhole" air - presumably to minimize contact with salt.

Fascinating.  And logical.

"Christian Nationalism" exemplified


Excerpts from an article at Insider:
A recent speech by Rep. Lauren Boebert — during which she invoked the end times and said it's time for Christians to "rise up" — demonstrated how Christian nationalist ideals, including some associated with violence, have made it to the halls of Congress.

"It's time for us to position ourselves and rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation as we were called to do," the Colorado Republican told the crowd at a Christian conference held by the Truth and Liberty Coalition in Woodland Park, Colorado, on September 9.

"We need God back at the center of our country," she added.
 
"We know that we are in the last of the last days," Boebert later said, referencing the belief held by some evangelical Christians that Jesus will return after a period of tribulation, or great suffering, and save believers. "But it's not a time to complain about it. It's not a time to get upset about it. It's a time to know that you were called to be a part of these last days. You get to have a role in ushering in the second coming of Jesus."

Boebert's comments expressing an intrinsic tie between the US and Christianity aren't new: In June she said she was "tired of this separation of church and state junk" and that "the church is supposed to direct the government." But by invoking the end times, Boebert is tapping into a side of Christian nationalism that has been associated with violence.
Photo credit Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Addendum:  this from the same woman -
Preaching from a Bible verse, Lauren Boebert got stumped by the meaning of “wanton killing” and pronounced “wanton” like wonton, the Chinese dumpling:

“I don’t know what a [wonton] killing is. I’m going to have to look that one up, but it sounds interesting.”

Vanity Fair argues that Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene make the case for Congressional IQ minimums.
As cartoon villains who vote against bills that benefit cancer patients. As bigots who vilify transgender people and want to criminalize transgender medical care. As bat-shit crazy lunatics who believe that Democrats are part of a satanic cult of pedophiles who eat children and that California wildfires are caused by Jewish space lasers. As people in charge of making laws who nevertheless say things like “gazpacho police,” when referring to the gestapo, “peach tree dish," when they mean petri, and “wonton killings,” when the word they were likely looking for was “wanton.”

Putin can't match Hitler and Mussolini


Recent videos on the news show young Russian men fleeing the country en masse following Putin's announcement of a conscription of fighting-age men.  A columnist at Bloomberg opines that "Neither he nor Russia’s hard-core nationalists have come up with convincing arguments to persuade ordinary post-Soviet Russians to die in a discretionary conflict."
Putin can only dream of the volunteer numbers the 20th-century fascist regimes could raise. Months into the war, the combined strength of the volunteer battalions formed in the Russian regions was barely in the tens of thousands, and it was hard to say if many of the volunteers were motivated by patriotism in the sense Putin or the Russian far right understand it. Rather, the battalions’ main lure for able-bodied men was the promise of salaries they couldn’t count on in their home regions...

One could say Russians aren’t joining Putin’s war in Nazi Germany-like numbers simply because they fear for their lives, or because they’ve heard stories of how poorly equipped and commanded the Russian military was, or simply because Russia doesn’t appear to be winning. But one could also argue that a strong ideological motivation could push these concerns into the background. The ever-swelling Waffen SS was an all-volunteer force well into 1942. Belief in the superiority of the German Volk and the “Aryan race,” and thus in their final victory, prevailed for many months after Hitler’s armies ceased to be unbeatable.

Russians don’t believe in anything of the kind, nor do they, en masse, hate Ukrainians. In August 2022, the Levada Center, one of the last pollsters still trying to obtain objective results in Russia, reported that 68% of Russians held a positive opinion of Ukrainians — down from 83% in October 2021, but still an overwhelming majority, especially given the realities of an oppressive regime. Many respondents would hesitate to tell a pollster — who might be a secret police official or some other kind of informer — that they like the folks the Russian military has been fighting for the last seven months...

An affinity for cash has been the Russian regime’s only true ideology throughout Putin’s rule. According to the latest wave of the World Values Survey, a plurality of Russians — 48.8%, compared with 37.9% in the supposedly more materialistic US — consider economic growth the country’s most important goal. Russians learned to be self-sufficient in the 1990s as the paternalistic Soviet state fell apart, and they reveled in this self-sufficiency as the country’s economy was gradually restored. “Every man and woman for themselves” has been the nation’s unofficial motto, first a survival refrain, then a recipe for well-being. So, when the regime needed something akin to the Mussolini- or Hitler-style nationalist, imperialist revival, the regime struggled to offer its volunteers anything more convincing than cash. 
More at the link.

Another mass stranding of whales

"More than 200 whales have been found stranded on a remote beach on the west coast of Tasmania, Australia. Half of the pod, thought to be pilot whales, are believed to be still alive. Rescuers are being sent to the area.

It's unclear what caused the whales to beach on a sandflat at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, the same remote location where Australia's worst stranding occurred two years ago.

It comes a day after a separate mass stranding in northern Tasmania..."

Wife smelled husband's Parkinson's disease 12 years before clinicians diagnosed it

Joy Milne was the care partner for her husband with PD. For many years, she noticed that he emitted a musky odor, but assumed that this scent was unique to him. In 2012 however, she smelled the same odor on a fellow support group member with PD, which led her to question whether this was a wider phenomenon. Her curiosity led her to a collaboration with Dr. Tilo Kunath at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who hypothesized that it was possible that PD produces a particular metabolite that gives off a specific odor. Dr. Kunath tested Milne and she was able to correctly identify with incredible accuracy whether a person had PD or not by smelling clothing that that person had worn. This early effort was chronicled in an article in 2016 in Lancet Neurology...

The source of the smell appeared to be the back of the neck, where there are many sebaceous glands that produce sebum, an oily, waxy substance produced by the skin. It is well known that people with PD have increased rates of seborrheic dermatitis which causes patches of scaly, red skin due to over-secretion of oils from the sebaceous glands. One hypothesis for why people with PD have seborrheic dermatitis at higher rates than the general population is that in PD there is dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that controls the oil glands on the face...

A related news story is about the existence of programs which train dogs, well known to have much better senses of smell than humans, to smell PD. One such program, the first of its kind established in the US, is PADs (which stands for Parkinson’s Alert Dogs) for Parkinson’s and operates in the Pacific Northwest. This program was established directly as a result of Joy Milne’s story.  Accounts from PADs for Parkinson’s and Medical Detection Dogs certainly support the idea that dogs can be trained to identify an odor in people who have been diagnosed with PD. For both these programs, the ultimate objective is not for trained dogs to diagnose PD by smelling bio-samples, but rather to identify the chemicals that the dogs are detecting so that an early diagnostic test can be developed.
Note Joy Milne has hyperosmia - a markedly heightened sense of smell.  Most spouses (and most people) cannot detect an altered odor in Parkinson's patients.

The effect of deep brain stimulation on Parkinson's Disease

"Andrew was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's Disease in 2009 when he was 35 years old. He lives with his wife and two children in Auckland, New Zealand. In November 2012 and February 2013 he underwent a surgical procedure, Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, to help control his motor symptoms. This has been hugely beneficial to his quality of life. He is the author of a blog youngandshaky.com which he created to raise awareness of the effects of Parkinson's Disease. This is his experience of how DBS has helped him and in the usual manner, results may vary."
A fascinating video.  Stick with it, or jump to the 1:30 mark and watch for a minute to see the dramatic difference the deep brain stimulation makes when he turns the device off.

Reposted from 2013.

A brief story about Parkinson's disease

"When Emma Lawton was 29 she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. As a graphic designer, drawing is a huge part of her life but over the past three years the tremor in her hands has grown more pronounced stopping her from writing and drawing straight lines. Enter Haiyan Zhang and her invention that is changing Emma's life."
Here you go:

Informed discussion at the Gadgets subreddit.  Reposted from 2016.

How to build an "immersed tunnel"

19 September 2022

Can you read this message?


If so, you're doing better than many college students, according to Drew Gilpin Faust, retired president of Harvard University:
It was a good book, the student told the 14 others in the undergraduate seminar I was teaching, and it included a number of excellent illustrations, such as photographs of relevant Civil War manuscripts. But, he continued, those weren’t very helpful to him, because of course he couldn’t read cursive.

Had I heard him correctly? Who else can’t read cursive? I asked the class. The answer: about two-thirds. And who can’t write it? Even more. What did they do about signatures? They had invented them by combining vestiges of whatever cursive instruction they may have had with creative squiggles and flourishes. Amused by my astonishment, the students offered reflections about the place—or absence—of handwriting in their lives. Instead of the Civil War past, we found ourselves exploring a different set of historical changes. In my ignorance, I became their pupil as well as a kind of historical artifact, a Rip van Winkle confronting a transformed world.

In 2010, cursive was omitted from the new national Common Core standards for K–12 education. The students in my class, and their peers, were then somewhere in elementary school. Handwriting instruction had already been declining as laptops and tablets and lessons in “keyboarding” assumed an ever more prominent place in the classroom. Most of my students remembered getting no more than a year or so of somewhat desultory cursive training, which was often pushed aside by a growing emphasis on “teaching to the test.” Now in college, they represent the vanguard of a cursiveless world...

Yet the decline in cursive seems inevitable. Writing is, after all, a technology, and most technologies are sooner or later surpassed and replaced...

Given a current generation of students in which so few can read or write cursive, one cannot assume it will ever again serve as an effective form of communication. I asked my students about the implications of what they had told me, focusing first on their experience as students. No, most of these history students admitted, they could not read manuscripts. If they were assigned a research paper, they sought subjects that relied only on published sources. One student reshaped his senior honors thesis for this purpose; another reported that she did not pursue her interest in Virginia Woolf for an assignment that would have involved reading Woolf’s handwritten letters. In the future, cursive will have to be taught to scholars the way Elizabethan secretary hand or paleography is today

The thought-provoking essay continues at The Atlantic.  The embedded handwriting sample comes from an article about National Handwriting Day (January 23, the birthday of John Hancock).

RelevantKurrent

See also:

"Nina Gonchar stands in her cellar entrance"


There are so many evocative images coming out of Ukraine since the onset of the war.  My eyes lingered over this one for the longest time, moving from the elderly lady emerging from her cellar to the war damage and the implied preexisting poverty surrounding her.  (the photo supersizes with a click)

For me this photo was a stark reminder of Hawkeye's comment to Father Mulcahy that war is worse than Hell because there are no innocent bystanders in Hell, but war is full of them: "little kids, cripples, old ladies..."

Seneca's "lessons for a happy life"

Selections from an essay at The Atlantic:
Lesson 1: I will look upon death or upon a comedy with the same expression of countenance.

Lesson 2: I will submit to labors, however great they may be, supporting the strength of my body by that of my mind.

Lesson 3: I will despise riches when I have them as much as when I have them not; if they be elsewhere I will not be more gloomy; if they sparkle around me I will not be more lively than I should otherwise be: Whether Fortune comes or goes I will take no notice of her.

Lesson 6: Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly.

Lesson 9: I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild to my foes: I will grant pardon before I am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honorable men halfway.

Lesson 11: Whenever either Nature demands my breath again, or reason bids me dismiss it, I will quit this life, calling all to witness that I have loved a good conscience, and good pursuits; that no one’s freedom, my own least of all, has been impaired through me.
The other lessons are at the link, each with salient commentary.  In all fairness it seems appropriate to append this observation from the Wikipedia entry:
Even with the admiration of an earlier group of intellectual stalwarts, Seneca has never been without his detractors. In his own time, he was accused of hypocrisy or, at least, a less than "Stoic" lifestyle. While banished to Corsica, he wrote a plea for restoration rather incompatible with his advocacy of a simple life and the acceptance of fate. In his Apocolocyntosis he ridiculed the behaviors and policies of Claudius, and flattered Nero—such as proclaiming that Nero would live longer and be wiser than the legendary Nestor. The claims of Publius Suillius Rufus that Seneca acquired some "three hundred million sesterces" through Nero's favor are highly partisan, but they reflect the reality that Seneca was both powerful and wealthy. Robin Campbell, a translator of Seneca's letters, writes that the "stock criticism of Seneca right down the centuries [has been]...the apparent contrast between his philosophical teachings and his practice."

16 September 2022

In celebration of Edith Piaf's 100th birthday


Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Edith Piaf, who died in 1963 at the too-young age of 48. The best way I know to celebrate her career is by offering two videos of the outstanding movie La Vie en Rose.  The one above is the trailer for the movie, for which Marion Cotillard won every conceivable "best actress" award.

The iconic scene from the movie is in the closing moments, when Piaf/Cotillard delivers the final public performance of her signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien" -


To fully appreciate the personal significance of a song entitled "No, I regret nothing," one needs a little backstory, which is nicely provided by these excerpts from a well-written tribute in The Guardian:
From growing up in a bordello, to spending four years blinded by keratitis in her infancy, to joining her acrobat father on the road in her teens, to shooting up morphine, cortisone and falling into alcoholism to alleviate a dodgy back sustained in a car crash as an adult (precipitating what she described as her “years of hell”), [her life] certainly wasn’t without event.

To paraphrase an old footballing cliche, fashion is temporary, class is permanent. Her brand of torch songs and cabaret showtunes might seem antediluvian to some, but a voice with such power to convey emotion never dates. What’s more, she led a life so bohemian and wild that she makes Jim Morrison – buried, like her, on Père Lachaise cemetery – look like a calculable conformist who got a bit carried away on his gap year. Avert your ears and Piaf’s life was a punk opera decades before the genre exploded.

After her death, Piaf received the highest honour from the French government when the tricolor flag was draped over her coffin. It was no empty gesture. During the second world war, she toured the unoccupied zone of Vichy France and apparently helped free as many as 300 POWs at the Stalag III-D camp near Berlin, by talking the camp commander into allowing her to be photographed with all the inmates – the photos then used to create false papers for them, crediting them as free French workers in Germany.

In the years since Piaf’s death it’s been commonplace to refer to musicians as “brave” for all sorts of reasons: releasing an unusual album, saying unexpected things in interviews, touring places that are rarely visited, playing gigs while not feeling very well. On the eve of her centenary, it’s worth remembering a musician who really was brave.
"La Vie en Rose" is available from several streaming services and should be present as a DVD in your local library.  I highly recommend it.

Reposted from 2015 because I rewatched the movie last week, and I still give it my highest (4+) rating.  This should be on every movie/music lover's bucket list.

14 September 2022

The Queen's bees have been notified of her death

The 79-year-old housekeeper told the outlet: “It is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive... “You knock on each hive and say, ‘The mistress is dead, but don't you go. Your master will be a good master to you.’
A New York Times article indicates that this tradition dates back centuries.
“It’s a very old and well-established tradition, but not something that’s very well-known,” said Mark Norman, a folklorist and the author of “Telling the Bees and Other Customs: The Folklore of Rural Crafts.”..

In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was believed that neglecting to tell the bees could lead to various misfortunes, including their death or departure, or a failure to make honey. Nowadays, beekeepers may be less likely to believe they risk bad luck, but they may continue to follow the tradition as “a mark of respect,” Mr. Norman said.
It certainly is a quaint tradition, but it does indicate a modicum of respect for the natural world, and in a way it echoes the Native American traditional "guidelines for the Honorable Harvest."

Fake document revealed by its font


"Pakistan's former PM Nawaz Sharif's family had produced documents to prove innocence concerning ownership of properties in London. The docs were signed in 2006 but the Calibri font used in it was released in 2007."  Via.

Considerations when considering an electric car

I'm currently driving an 11-year old car, and while I'm happy with it I need to consider upgrading to something with better electronics and a rear-view camera.  At my age my next car will quite possibly be my last one, so I'm pondering what will follow next in my lifetime sequence of Mustang, Beetle, Sunbird, Eagle, 300ZX, and multiple Subarus.

I had been thinking about an electic car, but a recent article indicates that at my age and with my driving habits, an electric car may not be the best choice with regard to the environment.  Here are some excerpts:
Is a gas guzzler actually better for the environment than an electric vehicle? Sometimes.

To build an electric-car battery, manufacturers need lithium... It’s chemical- and water-intensive to isolate lithium from all that mud, and it takes even more energy to make a functional car battery from it. As a result, building a clean-burning EV battery is twice as greenhouse-gas-intensive as making a conventional internal combustion engine.

The high emissions buy-in of an EV “isn’t a dealbreaker,” Nunes says, because “an electric car is almost always cleaner to drive per mile, compared to a gasoline-powered one. However, to get that advantage, you need to ‘burn off’ the emissions associated with manufacturing the car.” A gas-powered car has an emissions head start, but once the EV is driven enough, it gains a “green lead” with its low per-mile emissions, Nunes says. “It’s this very odd situation where, paradoxically, you need to get people to drive more in order to get an emissions advantage” — the underpinning of his research with Woodley, published recently in Nature Sustainability.

If a household purchases a new EV and drives it as the primary car, it will take 28,069 miles of driving, or about 2.73 years, to gain a green lead. But most EV purchasers right now are wealthier people who use it as a secondary vehicle. Since those cars are driven less frequently, these households need to hang onto the car for about a decade to produce any emissions benefit...

“Electric vehicles offer the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases, but that’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion,” Woodley says. People who drive frequently or keep their car for many years? “They’re perfect candidates,” he says. But infrequent drivers or those who want an EV as their secondary vehicle? They may want to “think long and hard” before heading to the Tesla dealership.

12 September 2022

Iridescent pileus cloud


This was totally new to me.  Explained at NASA's Astronomy Photo of the Day and at this Wikipedia entry.

The church that profited from the quack Covid bleach cure

Excerpts from an article at Bloomberg:
At the break of dawn [on] July 8, 2020, as police helicopters circled overhead, a SWAT team appeared in armored vehicles and raided the headquarters of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Fla...

For more than a decade, the Grenons had enriched themselves by selling Miracle Mineral Solution, or MMS, a “sacramental” drink that promised to cure ills such as Alzheimer’s and cancer but that scientific consensus holds to be potentially lethal and have no medical value whatsoever. Thousands of people had bought it to bathe in, spray on, or ingest.

Inside a steel warehouse on the church’s property, a hazmat crew seized more than 50 gallons of hydrochloric acid and 8,300 pounds of sodium chlorite, which could be combined to make chlorine dioxide, the main ingredient in MMS. FDA investigators affixed stickers reading “1496” to the blue plastic barrels of sodium chlorite, indicating its classification as a chemical so corrosive it can burn a hole through the throat, perforate the stomach, and cause blindness. Chlorine dioxide commonly serves as an industrial bleaching agent, with applications that include stripping textiles of color and turning wood pulp into paper. When ingested, it can cause irreparable damage to the respiratory tract and other critical organs. In 2019 the FDA warned Americans against the use of MMS, noting that there had been more than 16,000 cases of chlorine dioxide poisoning in the U.S. in the previous five years, including 2,500 cases involving children under 12.

Before the pandemic, the Grenons had earned about $30,000 a month selling MMS to buyers who were sometimes sick or dying, on the false premise that chlorine dioxide could eradicate 95% of known diseases. After the coronavirus outbreak, Mark claimed chlorine dioxide could cure Covid-19, and sales tripled almost overnight, further boosted when then-President Donald Trump speculated absurdly that injected disinfectants might kill the virus...

“I see disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during an April 23 briefing at the White House. “Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it’d be interesting to check that.”

It remains unclear how Trump arrived at the conclusion that injecting disinfectant could offer any medical benefit. Testimonials for bleach-based cures were, to be sure, circulating online among QAnon conspiracy theorists and in vaccine-skeptic circles. But it’s conceivable that Genesis II played a role; certainly, its archbishop took credit. Less than a week before Trump spoke, Grenon had said on his weekly webcast that he’d written to the president about his legal problems, describing MMS as “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body” and “rid the body of Covid-19.” After Trump’s endorsement Grenon claimed, without evidence, that the president had received bleach from more than two dozen church supporters and that Genesis II had a channel to him through a Trump family member...

Yet Grenon’s prophecy that MMS will endure could still prove prescient. The church has recently gained a significant following in some South American countries, according to local reports. Hundreds of buyers have been lining up outside makeshift MMS distribution centers in poor rural communities as the pace of Covid vaccination falls behind that of major cities. The Bolivian health ministry reported 10 chlorine dioxide poisonings stemming from MMS last year, and this February, Argentina opened a criminal investigation targeting a local Genesis II leader following the deaths of a 50-year-old man and a 5-year-old boy who’d consumed the bleaching agent.

The official website of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing is still online, having migrated to Chilean servers after a U.S. shutdown. Active chapters are listed for Argentina, Australia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., the U.S., and Uruguay. Grenon-trained bishops are standing by to administer the sacrament, in return for a $20 donation.
More information at the longread source.

Remastered 9/11 footage

Mildly infuriating


Found in the nocontextpics subreddit.

"Midnight Train to Georgia" - Gladys Knight and the Pips


It started out as "The Midnight Plane to Houston," inspired by a chance comment by Farrah Fawcett, who was flying home to visit her parents. The song was first recorded by Cissy Houston, who changed the plane to a train and the destination to Georgia. It then went to Gladys Knight and the Pips, who took it to #1 on the charts in 1973. 

The video above is from a performance at Chicago's Regal Theater (I don't know the year). Personally I prefer this 1973 version, but it can't be embedded. Love those Pips. Lyrics here.

Addendum: A big hat tip to Piper, who knew of a version with the Pips singing their parts without Gladys Knight. This from a 1977 Richard Pryor television show. "Midnight Train to Georgia" is in the second half of the video.


Reposted from 2009 and 2017 because I heard the song this weekend and immediately thought of the "pips" version.

Neonicotinoid pesticides ubiquitous in Minnesota deer

I'm a firm believer in the existence of an ongoing insect apocalypse, so I was dismayed - but not surprised - to read that neonicotinoids have been documented extensively in Minnesota deer:
The pesticides linked to bee, butterfly and pollinator deaths across the nation are being found in the organs of far more of Minnesota's wild deer, and in higher concentrations, than previously thought.

State biologists found neonicotinoids in nearly all — 94% — of deer spleens collected from road kill and sent in by hunters last fall. Alarmingly, roughly two-thirds of those deer had higher concentrations of the chemicals than a threshold found to potentially lower fawn survival and cause bone and genital deformities in a captive deer study.

After growing evidence that neonicotinoids contributed to massive die-offs of honey bees and other pollinators, the European Union quickly banned them.

North America, however, embraced them. They're now used on 98% of the corn, soybean, wheat and cotton growing on the continent, according to the DNR. They're also used in lawn care and common household products such as flea and tick prevention collars for pets.

The DNR's findings on Minnesota's wild deer spleens surprised researchers because deer taken in the thick woods of northern Minnesota were just as likely to have neonicotinoids in their systems as those taken among the vast corn and soybean fields of southern Minnesota. It isn't clear exactly how the chemicals are getting into the animals, whether it's through the water they drink or from directly eating treated seeds or plants.

"There was a little bit of a 'wow' factor when we found deer in the Boundary Waters with neonics," Carstensen said. "How does that happen? It's moving in ways we don't understand." 

09 September 2022

Puckish humor


While other heads of state aspire to regal magnificence, Queen Elizabeth remains a bit different in that regard.  This photo reminded me of my favorite story about her.  It was told by one of her former "protection officers."  He  had accompanied her to a public gathering in the area of Balmoral, not far from one of her castles.

The Queen was dressed informally while visiting a flower show or such.  While there she fell into conversation with some American tourists, one of whom asked her if she "lived around here." She told the lady that she did in fact have a place nearby.

The lady then asked eagerly whether she  had ever met the queen.  After a moment's consideration she replied (truthfully) "No..."  Then, pointing at her protection officer she said, "But HE has!"

2022 addendumThis link should go to a tweet video with the protection officer relating the story. (slightly different from the version above, but basically the same)

Reposted from 2016 to add this photo:

Image cropped from the original.

And reposted in 2022 on the occasion of her death.

05 September 2022

Divertimento #193

Dill pickle pizza

Cleaning up an empty lot (personally, I love doing stuff like this)
Giving birth outside the entrance to the ER (snarky - but relevant - comments)
How to clean an air conditioner condenser coil (useful and well-done video)
Drugs hidden inside rocks
Preparing bamboo for mat weaving
Truck driver saves kitten on highway
"Remove the red dot" puzzle
This is said to be a hotel complex swimming pool
Transplanting rice into a field
Pashmima fiber demonstrated (with good discussion in the thread)
How to find hidden cameras
Battlebots championship
This is how much the Sears Tower sways on a windy day
10-year-old boy rescues his mom, who is having a seizure in a swimming pool
Daddy, what is "factory farming" of animals?

Lobster roll

Animals
I've never seen a red tegu before
Zoo Tiger catches a fish
Yound Australian girl disposes of a snake
Bear traverses wire to access a birdfeeder
Mother polar bear breaking ice for her cub
Orangutan teaching toolmaking to other primates (same video, better comments)
Elephants protect baby on road
Seagull eats rabbit - by swallowing it whole
Snail eating a carrot (time-lapse, fortunately)
Beans need to be snapped
Kallima Inachus, a "dry leaf" mimic butterfly
Rhino strolling through a neighborhood (surprisingly fast)
How a camel climbs a sand dune
Cuckoo chick removes other eggs from nest (amazing unlearned behavior)
A Gees golden langur (recommend fullscreen view of that face)
So you like to bury your toes into the sand...
In case you've never seen a sand viper burying itself in sprinkles
Why you shouldn't use scented shampoo before a nature hike

Birthday cake paleta

Nature and Science
Worm in a salmon filet.  Some relevant discussion in the thread.
Yet another video of a Prince Rupert's drop.
Immense Lake Superior agate
I bet it's a cast iron chair
Dust devil at a music festival captures unstaked tents
Cempedak (a type of breadfruit)
Ivy being removed from a building (relevant comments in the thread)

Cheese curd tacos

Impressive or clever
Bicycle has two half-wheels on back
You don't want to wait for this train at a RR crossing.
Diver encounters a submarine
Creating art by pulling a chain
Crusher crushes
Aztec death whistle (demonstrated here) (how to make one)
Tidal bore coming
How to make a pony tail
Jian bing (a Chinese breakfast dish)
Halloween zombie costume
Automobile body being treated with corrosion protection
Water jet cuts things
Baggage being loaded on an airplane

Caramel latte ice cream sandwich

Sports and athleticism
75-shot badminton rally
Traditional Greek dance performance is NSFW (because penises)
Minnesota Twins achieve MLB's first ever 8-5 triple play
High jump competition
Touch the flag at the end of a greased pole
Dog gets toy out of tree

Waffles on a stick

Fails and wtf
Creepy cause of noise in the kitchen
CCTV footage of the "assault" on Rudy Giuliani
Speaker at Trump rally thanks him for Supreme Court "victory for white life"
Another example of a hidden card skimmer
American family does fireworks the wrong way.  (unmute if necessary)
I would never, ever, ever, ever, EVER, walk on this hiking path
Racing car goes airborne
Wind turbine on fire
Wake from a flood rescue vehicle damages buildings
Plastic pollution in harbor at Durban, South Africa
Motorcycle tricks (stupid af)
Queens Bath swimming spot in Kauai, where 27 people have died
The beaches of West Africa are drowning in plastic
Young man between the rails under a moving train... wants to jump out

"Poultrygeist" on Texas toast

Humorous or cheerful
Sugar glider gifs automatically go in the "cheerful" category
Helping a lost child find her parent
Retrieving a home run ball
How to make paintings smile
Street cones dancing during a rainstorm
Young girl introduces her first boyfriend to her mother (cheerful, and the currently top comment by CornishShaman cracked me up)

And finally, lemonade in a pouch - designed for convenience to carry and sip intermittently.  But to my eye it looks like a Foley catheter bag from a patient with hematuria...

All of the embedded images today were selected from a gallery of 78 new foods at the Minnesota State Fair, which ended on Labor Day (today) 

Music education


Dozens of relevant gifs at classicfm.

Via MissCellania, where you can always find something humorous (and lots of cat videos and gifs).

Alternatives to exploding a horse


The rationale for the illustrated procedure is explained at Neatorama and the embedded links there.  Many years ago I found a side-trail at the arboretum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where animal carcasses had been secured to the ground under wire mesh (to discourage carrion consumption by larger carnivores), so that students could monitor the breakdown of a turtle, rabbit, bird, and various other mammals.  Sadly, the site has not been refreshed with new dead critters.

I wonder if a similar procedure could be followed at a national park.  Haul the deer carcass away from the trail, put up an instructional sign, and let visitors (if they choose) see what happens in the natural world.

Some "white-collar workers" should be worried

Sobering thoughts:
When offshoring methodically disemboweled the Rust Belt, white-collar Americans thrived, free to enjoy the spoils of globalization safe in the knowledge that their jobs could not be outsourced easily to cheap foreign rivals. Now, some economists say the remote-work revolution may have changed that almost overnight.

If you can do your job from home, be scared. Be very scared,” Richard Baldwin, an economist at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, said in a recent video. “Because somebody in India … or wherever is willing to do it for much less.”

By greatly accelerating the adoption of remote work, the coronavirus pandemic has created a feedback loop that could be the most disruptive force to hit the job market since the blue-collar apocalypse in the 2000s, known among economists as the China shock...

The highest-paying industries, software and internet publishing (including search and social networking), also have the highest share of remote workers. A similar pattern holds throughout the income scale, with the lowest-paying jobs — in places such as gas stations — being least likely to be done remotely...

And while those jobs are concentrated in urban areas, many of them coastal, no industry or region would be untouched. As Zielinski points out, even blue-collar industries such as construction or manufacturing have plenty of white-collar roles that can be outsourced — think marketing, accounting, finance, sales and IT...

Autor, Zandi and other economists say those full-remote jobs could ultimately be a positive for American white-collar workers, liberating them from high-cost urban areas and revitalizing small communities.
This is a complicated scenario, but an important one for young workers to ponder.

03 September 2022

Camouflage

A Little Owl imitates a ceramic insulator on a telegraph pole. The bird was spotted by wildlife photographer Mircea Costina in Dobrogea, Romania...  Picture: Mircea Costina/Rex Features, via The Telegraph.
And for some reason, the juxtaposition makes the inverted insulator near the end humorous.

Reposted from 2012.

"Break It To Me Gently" (Brenda Lee, 1961)


I heard this song last night in the background during the credits for an episode of Mad Men (second season) and thought it should be stored in the blog.
4 ft 9 inch tall Brenda Mae Tarpley was born "in the charity ward of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia... She attended grade schools wherever her father found work, primarily in the corridor between Atlanta and Augusta. Her family was poor, living hand-to-mouth; she shared a bed with her two siblings in a series of three-room houses without running water... Her father died in 1953, and by the time she turned ten, she was the primary breadwinner of her family through singing at events and on local radio and television shows."

Reposted from 2012 because I found it while looking for other things in the archives, and I enjoyed hearing it again. 

There are a lot of good people in Katy, Texas


This segment aired last night on the CBS Evening News.  It's a reminder that (most) people are, in their hearts, intrinsically kind and thoughtful.

You Can't Go Home Again (Thomas Wolfe)


During my "feet in the air" post-bunionectomy blogcation, I pulled Thomas Wolfe's famous novel You Can't Go Home Again off the shelf for a reread.  When I was a young man in the 1960s, his writing fascinated me, and I think I must have read four or five of his novels.  Now that I'm older it's more difficult to find the energy to tackle a 700-page novel, and I'm frankly less interested in a thinly-disguised autobiography of a struggling young writer.

But at his best, Wolfe was capable of incisive commentary on the manners and mores of his contemporaries; I've pulled several excerpts relevant to the lifestyles of 1920s-1930s Americans and posted them in the last few days posted the old links below.  He also can be masterful in his use of language, achieving a lyrical style that is almost poetic.  Here, for example is a passage from early in the book:
"Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth, and listen.

"The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air--these things will never change.

 "The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbours, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry--these things will always be the same.

"All things belonging to the earth will never change--the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of lovers long since buried in the earth--all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth--these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts for ever. Only the earth endures, but it endures for ever.

"The tarantula, the adder, and the asp will also never change. Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, for ever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April."
I have not added You Can't Go Home Again to my recommended books category, because the best parts of it are too thinly scattered through a rather prosaic storyline, but the excerpts were certainly worth finding and blogging.

Text credit to Project Gutenberg Australia - with many thanks to them for saving me hours of transcribing for these six related posts.

Reposted from 2012 (has it been that long already?) for my neighbor Ben, who won't have time to reread this book for many years yet.

See also:






Those interested in the life of Thomas Wolfe might be interested in the movie Genius (starring Jude Law, with Colin Firth as editor Maxwell Perkins).
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