30 September 2022
Deciphering an old photo of Norway
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.
The forests of Iceland
23 September 2022
There's a reason these frogs are called Hyla VERSICOLOR
"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.
"Artificial blowhole" harvests wave energy
Irish company OceanEnergy has already tested its oscillating water column generators at significant scale in Hawaii, and it's just signed on to a four-year project to test, validate and commercialize its biggest unit yet off Orkney, in Scotland... In testing, it ran at a capacity of 500 kW, but the device was, and is, capable of 1.25 MW...OceanEnergy makes use of a piece of Northern Irish technology to harvest energy from this bidirectional air pressure: the Wells turbine, invented in Belfast in the late 70s. These use a series of symmetrically-designed fan blades, designed to convert air pressure coming through in either direction into the same direction of rotation. Thus, the turbine turns continuously in one direction as the air pumps in and out of the wave chambers, rather than requiring the turbine to keep switching directions every time the air flow reverses.This is in contrast with Wave Swell Energy's (WSE's) blowhole generator, which works on similar principles, but only harvests energy from air on the in-stroke, allowing the out-stroke air to push out through a valve.
"Christian Nationalism" exemplified
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
19 September 2022
Can you read this message?
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.
"Nina Gonchar stands in her cellar entrance"
Seneca's "lessons for a happy life"
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.
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."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.
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.
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.’
“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.
Fake document revealed by its font
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.
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
The church that profited from the quack Covid bleach cure
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.
"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
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
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!"
Reposted from 2016 to add this photo:
Image cropped from the original.