28 November 2022
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."
"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."
"Roundabout of the Year" (2016)
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.
24 November 2022
23 November 2022
Fiendishly difficult cryptic puzzle
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
Late-breaking Tooth Fairy news
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
"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
BELARIUS[Looking into the cave]Stay; come not in.But that it eats our victuals, I should thinkHere were a fairy.GUIDERIUSWhat's the matter, sir?BELARIUSBy Jupiter, an angel! or, if not,An earthly paragon! Behold divinenessNo elder than a boy!Re-enter IMOGENIMOGENGood masters, harm me not:Before I enter'd here, I call'd; and thoughtTo have begg'd or bought what I have took:good troth,I have stol'n nought, nor would not, though I had foundGold strew'd i' the floor. Here's money for my meat...
Word for the day: Biarritz-style
"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."
"My wife asked me why I spoke so softly in our house..."
I told her I was concerned that someone might be listening.
Life lessons from Steve Hartman's "On The Road"
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."Text via Moon Child and Suddenly. Photo taken on the Heartland Trail near Walker, Minnesota. Reposted from 2014.~Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
New word for me: "tuple"
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.
11 November 2022
"The Last Time I Saw Her" (Gordon Lightfoot)
That I can scarcely feel the way I felt before.
And if time could heal the wounds
I would tear the threads away
That I might bleed some more.
Reposted from 2015 because I wanted to listen to the song again.
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.
09 November 2022
"... and another Fog Cutter for Mrs. Grindstaff"
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."
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."
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...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.
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.
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.
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.
07 November 2022
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.
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
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?
Changing demographics in the United States
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.
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.
03 November 2022
"The Girl in the Cafe"
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.