28 November 2022

Three more Booth cartoons

Only two more left to do.  After that I'll be done harvesting our library's books.

Supernumerary rainbows and airglow ripples

"Supernumerary rainbows only form when falling water droplets are all nearly the same size and typically less than a millimeter across. Then, sunlight will not only reflect from inside the raindrops, but interfere, a wave phenomenon similar to ripples on a pond when a stone is thrown in. In fact, supernumerary rainbows can only be explained with waves, and their noted existence in the early 1800s was considered early evidence of light's wave nature."
Not to be confused with airglow ripples:

"The unusual pattern is created by atmospheric gravity waves, waves of alternating air pressure that can grow with height as the air thins, in this case about 90-kilometers up. Unlike auroras powered by collisions with energetic charged particles and seen at high latitudes, airglow is due to chemiluminescence, the production of light in a chemical reaction. More typically seen near the horizon, airglow keeps the night sky from ever being completely dark."

I agree with Rat

"Roundabout of the Year" (2016)

Jackson Circle at Horseferry Road (Carmel, Indiana) was voted "Roundabout of the Year" in 2016 by the U.K. Roundabout Appreciation Society.
In the United States, the earliest roundabouts often were constructed in bigger cities. In general, our analysis shows, they’re most likely to be built in well-educated, high-income towns. These days, the fastest growth is in suburbs and rural areas...

 In general, a roundabout will drive down fatal crashes by 90 percent and cut all car-crash injuries by at least 75 percent, even while accommodating a higher volume of cars.

More information at The Washington Post.

22 November 2022

The Butterfly Nebula

"This sharp close-up was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope and is processed here to show off remarkable details of the complex planetary nebula, highlighting in particular light emitted by oxygen (shown as blue), hydrogen (green), and nitrogen (red). NGC 6302 lies about 3,500 light-years away in the arachnologically correct constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpius). Planetary nebulas evolve from outer atmospheres of stars like our Sun, but usually fade in about 20,000 years."

21 November 2022

Yet more George Booth cartoons

Late-breaking Tooth Fairy news

 Somehow I missed this announcement three months ago:
According to findings of the 2022 Original Tooth Fairy Poll® released by Delta Dental, the Tooth Fairy visited 79% of homes across the country with children ages 6-12 who have lost teeth. Most kids are demonstrating patience for the Tooth Fairy’s visit, with more than half of parents (61%) reporting that their child waited for their loose tooth to fall out, unlike 18% of their children that pulled their own tooth...

Since 1998, Delta Dental has been analyzing the Tooth Fairy's U.S. annual giving trends. The 2022 Original Tooth Fairy Poll® indicates the Tooth Fairy's average cash gift reached $5.36 per tooth, an all-time high in the 24-year history of the poll. This year’s value of a lost tooth has more than quadrupled since the inception of the Original Tooth Fairy Poll® when the value of a lost tooth was $1.30. 
$7.36 — The Northeast: Continues to lead U.S. regions in highest average monetary gift for a lost tooth, rocketing $2 above the national average and marking a $1.64 gain over the previous year’s results.
$5.77 — The South: Continues to track most closely to the overall U.S. average and shows a $1.32 increase.
$4.27 — The Midwest: Although lower than the national average, up 61 cents.
$4.08 — The West: Represents the only U.S. region with a downward giving trend, with the average monetary gift for a lost tooth plunging by $1.46.

Planet Earth has a mass of six ronnagrams

More or less.
"In a vote at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles on Friday, the International System of Units (SI) embraced four new prefixes with immediate effect, marking the first such changes in more than 30 years.

At the top end of the scale are the new prefixes ronna, which stands for a billion billion billion, and quetta, which is a thousand times larger still. At the bottom end is ronto, meaning a billionth of a billionth of a billionth, and quecto, which is a thousand times smaller than that.

The arrival of the new prefixes means the Earth can now be said to weigh six ronnagrams, and Jupiter about two quettagrams. An electron weighs about a rontogram, and a single bit of data stored on a mobile phone adds about 10 quectograms to its mass..."

17 November 2022

A cartoon for English majors - updated

This one was "over my head."  I'll post now for other English majors to ponder, and update after the weekend with some relevant details and links.

Addendum: As I was preparing this series of memorial posts about George Booth, one of the library books included some biographical material.  They indicated that Booth did not tend to use "gag writers" to provide the captions accompanying his cartoons, but that when he did encounter a potentially useful phrase, he saved it up until an appropriate cartoon came to mind.  Two examples were cited.

The cartoon above has text based on the play Cymbeline (in Act III, Scene 6 "Wales.  Before the cave of Belarius"), when they spot Imogen (dressed as a boy) in the cave:
[Looking into the cave]
Stay; come not in.
But that it eats our victuals, I should think
Here were a fairy.
What's the matter, sir?
By Jupiter, an angel! or, if not,
An earthly paragon! Behold divineness
No elder than a boy! 

Re-enter IMOGEN

Good masters, harm me not:
Before I enter'd here, I call'd; and thought
To have begg'd or bought what I have took:
good troth,
I have stol'n nought, nor would not, though I had found
Gold strew'd i' the floor. Here's money for my meat...
The scene has been illustrated for various publications of the play, as in this example (a reproduction from the Dallas Museum of Art):

and again here:

and yet again here:

So the scene appears to be well recognized by artists and thespians.  But the phrase "By Jupiter, an angel..." was totally unfamiliar to me (in my defense I would suggest that Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare/deVere's lesser-performed works).  It wasn't until I read the Booth biography and the cartoon at the top was discussed that I was prompted to search Google for the true source of the quotation.

Interestingly, the biography went on to offer one more cartoon based on a quotation from someone.  The caption in this cartoon -

- was credited to "Hank Martin."  I spent a lot of time fruitlessly Googling that name before finally deciding that the reference must be to Henry Martin, who like Booth was a longtime New Yorker cartoonist.

But... to what is the text of the caption referring???  I have been unable to find a primary source for the "lone grape" sentences (searches typically lead to cartoon compilations that include both Booth and Martin).  Perhaps the excitement on the bus was something spoken to Booth by Martin privately, or perhaps it exists in some correspondence or book.  For now it remains a mystery unless some reader of this blog can suss it out.

Word for the day: Biarritz-style

Several weeks ago I played my last round of golf for the year.  The sport had been "prescribed" for me by orthopedic surgeons back in the 1950s as postoperative therapy after I underwent surgical repairs of polio-induced flexion contractures in my legs.  Both of my parents had been recreational golfers since the 1930s, when the sport was popularized by Sam Snead and Bobby Jones.  We played as a family on public courses, including rural ones with sand greens.

I was intrigued last year to read about Pioneer Pointe Golf Course opening in the Madison, Wisconsin area.  Executive golf courses are shorter than normal - typically all par 3s, or with a short par-4, and sometimes comprising only 13 holes instead of 18.  They are designed to appeal to "executives" who don't have the requisite time for playing a full 18 holes, but also appeal to aging persons like me who no longer relish facing a 570-yard par 5.

The developers of this course also incorporated some unusual features in the course design.  The image above shows where my (mulligan) tee shot landed on the 200-yard 7th hole.  Between me and the wickedly-placed pin is a transverse swale bisecting the front and back plateaus of the green, designed not for stormwater drainage but rather to challenge the putting skills of the golfer.  This was described as "Biarritz-style," but never having played fancy golf courses I had to look that up.

This video offers and explanation along with flyovers of some of the world's most famous "Biarritz-style" holes:

"In 1888, Willie Dunn Jr. designed the Biarritz Golf Club and the par-3 3rd hole which was dubbed “the chasm”. The chasm was adopted by C.B. Macdonald as a template hole and named “the biarritz.” Fellow architects were slow to grow fond of the bold and controversial putting surface that Macdonald was employing and called it “Macdonald’s Folly” in the early years.

Biarritz holes are long par-3s, typically 210-240 yards, designed to test a player’s ability to hit accurate long shots. Its defining characteristic is the massive green that stretches up to 80 yards. The large green is bisected by a deep swale in the middle —  usually 3-5 feet deep — and is protected by narrow bunkers on both sides of the green."
Here is an awesome one (more still photos at The Fried Egg):

I three-putted, and had fun doing so.  I hope to be back there next summer ($19 for a round of golf is not bad).  Here's another green from the Pioneer Pointe golf course, with a bunker in the center of the green:

Three more Booth cartoons

"My wife asked me why I spoke so softly in our house..."

I told her I was concerned that someone might be listening.

She laughed.

I laughed.

Siri laughed.

Alexa laughed.

Life lessons from Steve Hartman's "On The Road"

One of the few high points of my television viewing of national news is the Friday evening CBS segment of Steve Hartman's On The Road.  Readers who share that appreciation will particularly enjoy this video.

Related video from a local Arizona TV station.

You are always "on the road"

"Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy."
~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj 
Text via Moon Child and Suddenly.  Photo taken on the Heartland Trail near Walker, Minnesota.  Reposted from 2014.

Mercury embolization

The xrays are those of a 25-year-old man who injected himself intravenously with 4cc of mercury to treat tinea cruris (jock itch).  The lateral view of the chest shows extensive emboli in the pulmonary vasculature and, interestingly, focal accumulations in the right atrium and right ventricle (arrow and asterisk).  He had systemic symptoms and signs of mercury intoxication and was treated for such.  Details at The New England Journal of Medicine.

New word for me: "tuple"

It's always fun to learn a new word.  I encountered this one while playing Hurdle (which I find more challenging that the old Wordle).  No other entry was possible for the fourth row; the puzzle confirmed the word and moved me on to the final hurdle.

So, to the dictionaries.  Not in the OED (OED-level words are not typically in Hurdle anyway, which like Wordle uses a database of relatively common five letter words).  But it wasn't in my 1995 edition of the official Scrabble-players dictionary, which I used for decades.  

I found the word in Wiktionary, defined as a "finite sequence of terms," and found more detail in Wikibooks -
Tuples offer another way of storing multiple values in a single value. Tuples and lists have two key differences:

Tuples have a fixed number of elements (immutable); you can't cons to a tuple.
Therefore, it makes sense to use tuples when you know in advance how many values are to be stored. For example, we might want a type for storing 2D coordinates of a point. We know exactly how many values we need for each point (two – the x and y coordinates), so tuples are applicable.

The elements of a tuple do not need to be all of the same type. For instance, in a phonebook application we might want to handle the entries by crunching three values into one: the name, phone number, and the number of times we made calls. In such a case the three values won't have the same type, since the name and the phone number are strings, but contact counter will be a number, so lists wouldn't work.

Tuples are marked by parentheses with elements delimited by commas.
Now I understand.  Tuple is a word created for programming language, and is not used by normal people in the real world.  As soon as I encountered "you can't cons to a tuple" I knew I was wading into quicksand and I carefully backed out.

Note to self:  Time passes, language changes, and so does the official lexicon for Scrabble.  Maybe it's time to update the dictionary.

11 November 2022

The final speech and video montage from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos"

Remembering Gallagher

American readers of this blog who are of a certain age will very likely remember watching Gallagher on television in the 1980s.  He started his career as a conventional stand-up comedian, making use of his collegiate studies as an English major (!) to regale his audience with the oddities of the language...
"Con is the opposite of pro.  So Congress must be the opposite of progress."
And so on.  Then he found his shtick in physical comedy, and parlayed that into a series of television specials.

Reposted from 2017 in his memory after his death this week.

09 November 2022

"... and another Fog Cutter for Mrs. Grindstaff"

In memory of George Booth, cartoonist for The New Yorker, who died this week at age 96.
His cartoons usually featured an older everyman, everywoman, or everycouple beset by modern complexity, perplexing each other, or interacting with cats and dogs... One signature element of Booth's generally messy or run-down interiors is a ceiling light bulb on a cord pulled by another cord attached to an electrical appliance such as a toaster. Most of the household features in his cartoons were drawn from his own home. 

His daughter, Sarah, said, "All his life, he'd sit in his studio and come up with captions and laugh at his own work."
Here's one of those "signature interiors" -

More cartoons later this week after I get a couple books from the library.

Testicle-checking booth

Comments sent to public school boards 2021-2022

"You are forcing them to wear masks for no reason in this world other than control. You will pay dearly."

"If you have that diaper on your face: if he farted, could you smell it? That’s how stupid this is. We’re all playing games here with people’s lives, and I’m sick of it. There’s hell coming. There’s hell coming, and I’m not doing it to threaten anybody. But there’s a lot of good guys out there ready to do bad things."

"My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on. All right? That’s not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded—I’ll see y’all on Monday."

"Your life is being laid bare on the dark web. I don’t condone what’s gonna be sent to those close to you or the danger they may be in, but you personally do deserve it."

"You like to inject children with poison without their parental consent. I have a syringe full of anthrax to inject into you. You will shake and you will no longer breathe."

"Every single one of you needs to step down. Your ideology is failing this country and our children. Get it through your fucking head, people don’t like this shit. You’re gonna create a civil war, and you’re going to fucking lose."

"Heil Hitler."
From the May 2022 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Three Nonsequitur cartoons

A closer look at the "Disabled Veterans National Foundation" - Updated x4

This elaborate "desk set" (calculator, pen, note pad) arrived unsolicited in the mail this week, from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation.  Because our family does donate money to charities, and because I know they exchange (or sell) names of donors to one another, I'm never surprised when new appeals arrive in the mail.

But this one was fancier by a couple log powers than anything I had ever seen before.   Even more elaborate than the made-in-China pseudo-Native-American-craft dreamcatcher I blogged two years ago.  Most charities simply send return-address labels.

So I decided to investigate.  My first stop was Charity Navigator, an unbiased resource for those who wish to give to charities.  Unfortunately, this was their response: "We don't evaluate Disabled Veterans National Foundation. Why not? We require 4 years of Forms 990 to complete an evaluation."

So I looked at the evaluation at Charity Watch:
Claims made about the percentage of donations going to charity are not the only contradictions AIP found when investigating DVNF. "For 35 years we have been putting service to others before ourselves," says one DVNF solicitation. This is an interesting statement considering the charity was not incorporated until November 2007, according to its 2008 tax form...

According to that AIP member, DVNF first sent a large plastic envelope containing a calculator and planner which she had not requested, along with a contribution form. They later sent her a follow-up solicitation asking "Did you receive the Patriotic Calculator and Planner Set I sent you?" This statement was printed in red letters above her name and address on the envelope next to a photo of an injured soldier being carried into a helicopter on a stretcher. Charities that mail unrequested gifts while at the same time requesting contributions are trying to guilt you into giving, in AIP's opinion. Donors should be aware that they are under no legal or, for that matter, moral obligation to send contributions in response to gifts they have not requested...

The language in this solicitation could lead potential donors to believe that the charity seeks funds primarily for direct assistance to veterans, which is not the case. According to DVNF's 2008 audit, only $127,421 or less than 1% of DVNF's $16.3 million budget could have been spent on grants or aid to individuals. Except for this amount and a $40,000 unrestricted grant to a related party, all the rest of DVNF's reported program expenses of $4.5 million were direct mail related.
In fairness, I'll note this evaluation was posted in August of 2010, so there may be newer data.  But I'll give this one a pass.

Update:  I wrote the above on April 30.  Yesterday, as predicted, the followup request arrives, not as an "invoice," but as a "receipt verification form." The reply form reads "YES! I received the calculator and 14 month planner.  I want to honor the disabled American heroies whokeep our nation safe!  To help these courageous men and women get the respect & benefits their military service earned, here's my gift of..."

Also, a tip of the hat to reader Corey, who notes that on May 8 CNN addressed this issue:
A national charity that vows to help disabled veterans and their families has spent tens of millions on marketing services, all the while doling out massive amounts of candy, hand sanitizer bottles and many other unnecessary items to veteran aid groups, according to a CNN investigation.

The Disabled Veterans National Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and founded in 2007, received about $55.9 million in donations since it began operations in 2007, according to publicly available IRS 990 forms.

Yet according to the DVNF's tax filings with the IRS, almost none of that money has wound up in the hands of American veterans.

Instead, the charity made significant payments to Quadriga Art LLC, which owns two direct-mail fundraising companies hired by the DVNF to help garner donations, according to publicly available IRS 990 forms...

DVNF specifically cited a small veterans charity called St. Benedict's. But the charity's executive director said most of the donations from DVNF could hardly be classified as "badly needed."

"They sent us 2,600 bags of cough drops and 2,200 little bottles of sanitizer," J.D. Simpson told CNN. "And the great thing was, they sent us 11,520 bags of coconut M&M's. And we didn't have a lot of use for 11,520 bags of coconut M&M's... "

In one instance, the DVNF claimed more than $838,000 in fair market value donations to a small charity called US Vets in Prescott, Arizona. CNN obtained the bill of lading for that shipment, which showed that, among other things, hundreds of chefs coats and aprons were included in the delivery, along with a needlepoint design pillowcase and cans of acrylic paint. The goods listed in the two-page shipping document were things "we don't need," a US Vets spokesman said. 
More at the link. Many "charities" that ask for your money use a similar ploy.  They request free items from corporations - "gifts in kind" - then declare an inflated "market value" of those gifts when they give them away, which they use to offset the cash contributions they get from you.  The corporations in turn, of course, declare some value for these "gifts in kind" to deduct on their state and federal tax statements as charitable contributions to lower their taxes.

I spent the better part of 20 years of my working life serving U.S. veterans, so I have a personal interest in seeing that this particular story gets the attention it needs.

Addendum:  As Dan F. notes, the group is now going to be the subject of a Senate investigation.

Addendum #2:  Reposted from 2012 because the most recent comment from a reader indicates that this group is still in business.  The Senate inquiry apparently resulted in a monetary fine (and a promise to reform).

Addendum #3:  Re-reposted from 2014 because comments continue to be added to the thread, so the DVNF is apparently still active.  This post is one of the most often-visited pages in TYWKIWDBI, which is kind of sad, really.

Addendum #4:  Re-re-reposted from 2017 for the same reasons as above.  And this year the DVNF is listed on Charity Navigator with a score of 36%, which earns it zero stars.

07 November 2022


I am so very much looking forward to seeing this movie.  Here are excerpts from a review in The Guardian:
Living [is] tailor-made for Nighy by its scriptwriter Kazuo Ishiguro, who asked if he might like to star in a remake of Kurosawa’s Ikiru. He would; it’s now his first proper shot at an Oscar. Nighy plays Mr Williams, a widower who oversees an office of paper-shufflers in post-war County Hall. A doctor tells him he has stomach cancer and six months to live. So he starts trying to do so, helped by a boozy playwright (Tom Burke) met on a botched suicide trip to the seaside, as well as Wood’s waitress and a sunny civil servant played by Alex Sharp.

What drew Ishiguro to Nighy, the former emails, was “his ability to arouse, seemingly at will, not only an audience’s emotions, but also its affection”. That makes Nighy “unique among his generation”; only Cary Grant and James Stewart are apt comparisons...

Living is as far up Nighy’s alley as you can get without hitting the next street. He’s an old pro at bureaucrats awakened by girls in cafes. There’s also rain, cigarettes, Westminster, fabulous tailoring (Nighy has always avoided Shakespeare on account of the trousers) and lots about the transformative power of a trilby.
More about Nighy the person at that link, and more about Living from the BBC:
There are few things people like talking about less than the inevitability of death. For many, that fact exists buried in the deepest crevices of the mind, too hard even to contemplate... part of the power of Living is how it rejects despair: "we're tricking the audience a little bit because they think they are on a certain journey, but the payoff is incredibly cathartic, and it's a really warm embrace. Emotionally it starts with somebody who's dead and by the end of it, it's somebody who's very much alive"... there is profound freedom in our acceptance of our own mortality. In motioning us towards this, films like Living can have a real part to play: for while a level of fiction cushions the blow for the existentially terrified, they can bring audiences closer to confronting what a good life and a good death means to them...

That beauty is often showcased in the particular sub-genre of films, that includes Living, in which protagonists face death by really embracing life. From the tear-jerking romance of Love Story (1970) and Bright Star (2009) to the gallows humour of Last Holiday (1950) and its 2006 remake; from the sweeping drama of Melancholia (2011) and Death in Venice (1971) to the musical flights of fancy of Bob Fosse's All that Jazz and audacious action of Crank (2006) and Source Code (2011) – each of these movies considers a fundamental question: when death goes from abstract to imminent, what do we do with the time we have left? For many cinephiles, that question has never been better answered than in Akira Kurosawa's 1952 film Ikiru, of which Living is an English language remake...

The idea of looking inwards for fulfilment before it's too late is at the core of what Ishiguro wanted to express in Living – along with the acknowledgement that you "can make your life full and worthwhile beyond a sense of external achievement that the world recognises. You can have a very humble small life, but you can make a supreme effort within the limitations of that life."

Why Democrats will lose in tomorrow's midterm elections

In 1944 the Minnesota Democratic Party merged with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party to form the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL), which continues to this day.

The national Democratic Party did not formally adopt this change, but it seems to me that through the 1950s, 60s, 70s there was a de facto coalition of farmers and laborers with the Democratic Party nationally.  The Republican Party seemed to identify more strongly with business, banking, and corporate interests.

These affiliations have changed markedly in modern times, most notably in 2016 when Bernie Sanders presented himself as a presidential candidate interested in the common working man, but the Democratic Party elected to go with Hillary Clinton for the national presidential campaign.  Fearmongering about wicked "socialism" doomed Sanders and the Republican Party successfully pandered to farmers, laborers, and the rural population, leading to the election of Donald Trump.  

A recent article - Democrats’ Long Goodbye to the Working Class - provides more context.
This year, Democrats have chosen to run a campaign focused on three things: abortion rights, gun control, and safeguarding democracy—issues with strong appeal to socially liberal, college-educated voters. But these issues have much less appeal to working-class voters. They are instead focused on the economy, inflation, and crime, and they are skeptical of the Democratic Party’s performance in all three realms.

This inattentiveness to working-class concerns is not peculiar to the present election. The roots of the Democrats’ struggles go back at least as far as Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, and, as important, to the way in which many Democrats chose to interpret her defeat. Those mistakes, compounded over subsequent election cycles and amplified by vocal activists, now threaten to deliver another stinging disappointment for the Democratic Party. But until Democrats are prepared to grapple honestly with the sources of their electoral struggles, that streak is unlikely to end...

After Sanders unexpectedly came close to tying Clinton in the Iowa caucus, she went on the offensive, seeking to characterize Sanders’s class-oriented pitch as racist and sexist... Trump’s victory was attributable, above all, to the shift of white working-class voters, including many who had voted for Obama, into the Republican column. In the country as a whole, the Republican advantage among white working-class voters went up by six points to a staggering 31-point margin. White college-educated voters went in exactly the opposite direction, increasing the Democratic advantage among these voters by six points.

But white working-class voters are far more numerous than their college-educated counterparts, particularly in certain areas of the country, such as the Midwest...  

The aftermath of the 2022 election will likely give them another opportunity to reexamine their approach. Will they return to their historical roots? Or will their long goodbye to the working class continue?
Lots more at the longread link.

SNL commercial for COVID

Changing demographics in the United States

A lot of people are upset by this phenomenon, or scared by it because "their" America is changing (and note the relatively brief timeline).  

Lots more detail and analysis at The Washington Post.  I know the second embedded graph is unreadable without double-clicking; I included it to demonstrate that the phenomenon is nationwide rather than localized.

The Golden years?

WTC advertising brochure, c. 1980

Audience choir

People singing together provides an experience that probably dates back to the dawn of humanity itself:
Not only can humans make more sounds, but we also can control how we string them together. And that is because of our amazing and precise breath control. Monkeys can't control their inhale and exhale the way we can -- they can only make short sounds a few seconds long before they have to take another breath.
And the process seems to bind groups of people together - vide sports venues, battlefields, religious gatherings.

Wing spurs

Image cropped for size from the IAF subreddit, where the bird is identified as an Australian masked lapwing.  New info for me, so I checked Wikipedia:
A spur is an outgrowth of bone covered in a sheath of horn found in various anatomical locations in some animals. Unlike claws or nails, which grow from the tip of the toes, spurs form from other parts of the foot, usually in connection with joints where the toes meet the foot or the foot meets the long bones. Spurs are most commonly found on the hindfeet, though some birds possess spurs at the leading edge of the wings...

Unlike claws, spurs are normally straight or only slightly curved, making them suited to striking or stabbing. In birds and mammals, their function appears to be for fighting, defense and territory marking, rather than for predation. In reptiles, spurs are usually only found in the males and are used as holdfasts or to stimulate the female during copulation...

The masked lapwing (also known as the spur-winged plover) has carpal spurs. Nesting pairs defend their territory against all intruders by calling loudly, spreading their wings, and then swooping fast and low, and where necessary, striking at interlopers with their feet and attacking animals on the ground with the conspicuous yellow spurs.
More info at the link re mammalian and reptilian spurs.

03 November 2022

"The Girl in the Cafe"

I rewatched this movie last night and absolutely loved it all over again.  Bill Nighy and Kelly McDonald are two of my favorite actors, so to see them paired up is absolutely delightful.  
The Girl in the Cafe was a 2005 British made-for-television drama which received seven nominations at the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards, where it won Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for Curtis, and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Macdonald.
The plot doesn't sound exciting -
Lawrence (Bill Nighy), a civil servant working for the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Ken Stott), falls in love with Gina (Kelly Macdonald), a young woman he meets by chance in a London café. Lawrence takes Gina to a G8 summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, where she confronts the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Corin Redgrave) over the issue of third world debt and poverty in Africa, much to Lawrence's embarrassment and the anger of his employers. However, he realises that she is right and tries to help persuade the Chancellor and others at the summit to do something about the issues concerned.
- and it's not.  But the acting is superb.  Tonight I'm planning to watch the director's cut, with a voiceover by the director and the writer.

I was also intrigued by the musical background during the opening and closing credits.  Here it is:

Pun of the week

Res ipsa loquitur

"The purpose of death is the release of love"

I recently watched an otherwise unremarkable movie called Heart of a Dog.  The one takeaway for me was the philosophy that the purpose of death is the release of love.  If you have loved someone or something (a pet) intensively and for many years, when that person/pet dies, your love is "released" to be now applied to a new person or object.  

An interesting thought.

Addendum:  This comment from reader AaronS -
I read that other day of someone who said they had been suffering with "pre-grief." This is apparently an actual psychological term that means the dread that someone close to you is going to die (e.g., aging parents or someone who is in the last stages of cancer). I know that I seem to have a small cloud over my heart as my parents are now both 83 (and the most wonderful parents in every way).

It was told to the person suffering from pre-grief that sometimes the actual event of someone dying affects them much less than all the pre-grief did.

All of that to say that the release of the pre-grief (as it goes into--and then recovers--from grief) may very well be a "release of love," for now that person may have a much better state of mind that is able now to enjoy life more fully.


Anonychia is the absence of fingernails or toenails, an anomaly which may be the result of a congenital ectodermal defect, ichthyosis, severe infection, severe allergic contact dermatitis, self-inflicted trauma, Raynaud phenomenon, lichen planus, epidermolysis bullosa, or severe exfoliative diseases.
Photo via the IAF subreddit, where this was said to be a case of anonychia congenita.  I've always thought that humans would eventually evolve to eliminate toenails, which are vestigial appendages dating from the time when claws were useful.  I can think of no useful purpose for a toenail, and don't think humans will miss them.  Fingernails OTOH have a variety of uses.

Dead from blunt force head trauma

In the late 1990s, when Florida bikers were still required to wear helmets, Pinellas lawyer Ron Smith was an aggressive advocate for overturning the law.

Smith was a member of ABATE — A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education — which lobbied against the law for years. He represented clients who ran afoul of Florida’s motorcycle requirements in court cases that some say helped overturn Florida’s helmet law.

Smith didn’t like being told what to do and valued his independence, said Dave Newman, who met the attorney through an American Legion post in Old Town where they were both members.

“He thought everybody should have their own choice,” Newman said.

In 2000, Smith’s aspiration was realized when the Florida Legislature passed a law allowing motorcyclists over 21 to go without head protection as long as they had $10,000 in insurance coverage for motorcycle accident injuries.

In August, Smith and his girlfriend, Brenda Jeanan Volpe, were riding a motorcycle on U.S. 19 in Pinellas County. They were headed to a memorial service for another biker who had died of cancer.

Smith crashed the bike as he tried to slow for traffic ahead of him. Both he and Volpe were killed.

Neither was wearing a helmet...
It’s impossible to say whether a helmet would have prevented Smith’s and Volpe’s deaths, experts said. Smith’s autopsy report lists blunt head trauma as his cause of death and an initial report from the Hillsborough Medical Examiner’s Office also lists Volpe’s cause of death as head trauma...

Riders who had previously resisted helmets have started wearing them, Rodriguez said. And on his first ride after the deaths, Rodriguez made an observation while looking at all the riders in the group.

“Every single one had a helmet on,” he said.
More information at the Tampa Bay Times.  Karma is a bitch.  But perhaps in view of the final two paragraphs, this old saw may apply: "Everyone in life has a purpose, even if it's to serve as a bad example."

A collection of uranium glass

Illuminated with UV lights.  A bit crowded, but impressive nevertheless.  Via the IAF subreddit.  More info re uranium glass at Collector's Weekly.
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