31 January 2023

King Charles will wear $4 BILLION in jewels for the coronation

"How could one man possibly wear that much jewelry?" you might ask. But the collection is comprised of the St. Edwards Crown, Sovereign's Ring, Imperial State Crown, Sovereign’s Sceptre with dove, Sovereign’s Sceptre with the cross, Sovereign’s Orb, Gold Ampulla, the Spurs, and the Sword of Offering, all littered with gem stones like diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and pearls.

In fact, the St. Edwards Crown hasn't been worn in 200 years, because of its sheer weight (clocking in at 4.9 pounds). Even more impressive is the Sovereign's Scepter with Cross, which holds the world's most expensive diamond, the Cullinan, believed to be approximately 530 carats and estimated to be worth $430 million.

More at In Style

Can an unborn fetus be a state employee?

The bizarre opinion is in response to a lawsuit over the November 2021 tragedy that killed two MoDOT employees, one of whom was pregnant.

“First of all, it’s illogical. How would somebody who hasn’t even been born yet work for you?” he said. “But if they were to get someone to buy that, then that means your case is dismissed out of St. Louis County, go to the comp system, where they’re going to take a different position, just like they did initially.”

Workers’ comp already denied Anderson’s family claim because Kaitlyn was not married and had no dependents. Mundwiller says workers’ comp will certainly deny an unborn baby.

“What they’re hoping is they don’t pay anything,” he said.

MoDOT did not have a protective truck in place that day, even though it’s a department policy. That’s the focus of a lawsuit that, Kaitlyn’s mom says, MoDOT keeps avoiding."

How to be a profitable company

"Union Pacific, one of the major freight railroads that successfully fought off union demands for paid sick days for workers during contentious labor negotiations in 2022, reported another year of record earnings Tuesday.

The company, along with CSX, Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern Sante Fe, narrowly avoided a strike by its unionized workers when Congress imposed new contracts on about half of its union members in December.

For the year, the company’s employee pay and benefits rose by about $500 million, or 12%, to $4.6 billion, far less than the $6.3 billion that Union Pacific spent repurchasing shares of stock. "

A "flyover" of Mars

"The anaglyph images of Mars taken by the HiRISE camera holds information about the topography of Mars surface. There are hundreds of high-resolution images of this type. This gives the opportunity to create different studies in 3D. In this film I have chosen some locations and processed the images into panning video clips. There is a feeling that you are flying above Mars looking down...

The colors in this film are false because the anaglyph images are based on grayscale images. I have therefore color graded the clips. But I have tried to be moderate doing this. The light regions in the clips are yellowish and the dark regions bluish. The clips from the polar regions (the last clips in the film) have a white-blue tone.There are a lot of opinions and studies of what the natural colors on Mars might be. But the dark regions of dust often seems to have a bluish tone. 
This is the type of video that begs you to click the "fullscreen" icon.  More information at Vimeo.

Crypto billionaires


It has been reported for years that most Americans could not afford an unexpected $400 cost without borrowing or neglecting other payments, thus living paycheck-to-paycheck.  Motley Fool said the percentage was about 50% this past year.

What surprised me was to see a report in Bloomberg indicating that this lack of financial flexibility also extends to upper-income earners (chart at top).
The share of Americans who say they live paycheck-to-paycheck climbed 3% last year, a likely reflection of the growing strain on household budgets. But it’s not just the lowest earners feeling the squeeze. Most of the newcomers were people earning more than $100,000 a year, according to a Pymnts.com and LendingClub survey. It all points to weaker consumer spending in the months ahead.
As a life-long compulsive saver, it's hard for me to comprehend the mindset that spends to the max to own the biggest possible house/car, newest phone, latest fashion, trendiest vacation.

Disinformation from the pulpit

Before i turn to the Word,” the preacher announces, “I’m gonna do another diatribe.”

“Go on!” one man yells. “Amen!” shouts a woman several pews in front of me.

Between 40 minutes of praise music and 40 minutes of preaching is the strangest ritual I’ve ever witnessed inside a house of worship. Pastor Bill Bolin calls it his “diatribe.” The congregants at FloodGate Church, in Brighton, Michigan, call it something else: “Headline News.”

Bolin, in his mid-60s, is a gregarious man with thick jowls and a thinning wave of dyed hair. His floral shirt is untucked over dark-blue jeans. “On the vaccines …” he begins.

For the next 15 minutes, Bolin does not mention the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or the life everlasting. Instead, he spouts misinformation and conspiratorial nonsense, much of it related to the “radically dangerous” COVID-19 vaccines. “A local nurse who attends FloodGate, who is anonymous at this time—she reported to my wife the other day that at her hospital, they have two COVID patients that are hospitalized. Two.” Bolin pauses dramatically. “They have 103 vaccine-complication patients.” The crowd gasps.

“How about this one?” Bolin says. He tells of a doctor who claims to know that “between 100 and 200 United States Congress members, plus many of their staffers and family members with COVID, were treated by a colleague of his over the past 15 months … with …” Bolin stops and puts a hand to his ear. A chorus of people responds: “Ivermectin.” Bolin pretends not to hear. “What was that?” he says, leaning over the lectern. This time, they shout: “Ivermectin!” Bolin nods.

This isn’t my first time at FloodGate, so none of what Bolin says shocks me. Yet I’m still struggling to make sense of the place.
Those are the opening paragraphs in a story in The Atlantic entitled "How Politics Poisoned the Church."

The best "Black Mirror" episodes, IMHO

One of my activities during my blogcation was a viewing of all five seasons of Charlie Brooker's "Black Mirror" episodes.  Mr. Google can offer you numerous lists ranking the episodes; here are my favorite ones (three of which are included in the Season 4 trailer above):
"Hated in the Nation" stars the incomparable Kelly McDonald.  Clever plot - with a final twist or two.

"Crocodile" is unsettling and dark.

"White Bear" is a disturbing depiction of a dystopic future.

"Metalhead" is an extrapolation of standard sci-fi fare and frankly scary.

"U.S.S. Callister" presents Jesse Plemons portraying a sociopath.
I won't rank them all, but will mention that the interactive "Bandersnatch" was too cute by half and became tedious.  I will echo the common refrain that most of the episodes in the series are designed to be disturbing, offering alternative outcomes of present-day scientific and social trends.

Readers are invited to share their views in the Comments section.

Addendum June 2023:  I've just finished watching the five episodes of season 6.  Several very good ones, but none to add to the "best of" list above.  Here's the trailer:

28 January 2023

Military helmet (Japan, 1618)

Reminds me of a tardigrade egg.  But if I were designing a helmet, I think I'd prefer one where weapons would glance off rather than get held by the spikes.

DIY "evening dress"

A useful tip for the cost-conscious supermodel.  If you find yourself caught without appropriate evening wear, you can 
"... turn a pair of jeans into an evening look by cutting off the top four inches to wear as a matching denim bandeau bra top. (To keep the now waistband-less jeans from falling down, she glues the zipper together.)"
More details at The Guardian.

AddendumTutorial video by Julia Fox herself on how to do this.  Tx, anon.

No need for evening wear?  Then perhaps just visit the "Go Tuck Yourself" report to see the latest styles of (not) tucking your tops into your bottoms:

More incredible examples at the link.

Geography game

WorLdle is not related to Wordle; they seem to have adopted the name to coat-tail on the popularity of the word game.  But it is a challenging geography game.  Six chances to guess the country from it's shape alone.  Erroneous guesses result in an arrow and distance "pointing" you toward the correct answer.  If you guess the country, you are then asked to identify all the bordering countries.  Then identify the flag and some other details.

"The English"

One of the best movies I've seen in the past year.  Emily Blunt is superb, as is her co-star Chaske Spencer.  Six parts, streaming on Amazon (not in libraries yet, AFAIK).  The graphic violence will be a deterrent for some viewers, but it is focal to the plot rather than gratuitous, and the acting and cinematography is outstanding.

Crosby Stills Nash reprise Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

This was the closing number from their PBS-broadcast performance at San Luis Obispo in 2012.

Reposted from 2016 in memoriam re David Crosby (1941-2023).

Worst chart ever

A graph distributed by the Federal Reserve, purporting to show China's vast military spending (the red line), compared to the United States (blue line).

Note - if you haven't already - that the scale for the red line is on the left, while the scale for the blue line is on the right.   Here are the same data displayed with just one y-axis:

Was this an "innocent mistake" by a low-level clerk or aide who wanted to compress the data into a smaller graph?  Or was it intentional.  I smell shenanigans.  

Thousands of fake nursing diplomas in Florida

Twenty-five people have been charged in a Florida wire fraud scheme that created thousands of illegal licenses and employment shortcuts for aspiring nurses, according to the U.S. Department of Justice...

“The bogus diplomas and transcripts qualified purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPN/VNs,” USDOJ reported. “The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Fla., Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County.”

Federal agents reported that the schools are now closed, with each defendant facing up to 20 years in prison. The USDOJ said that this type of crime “unfortunately continue[s] to spring up, especially” in South Florida...

What is disturbing about this investigation is that there are over 7,600 people around the country with fraudulent nursing credentials who are potentially in critical health care roles treating patients. Were it not for the diligence and hard work of the investigators on this case, the extent of this fraud may not have been discovered, “ Yarbrough added.
I hope they punish these people to the max.  More information at The Hill

Chuckleworthy yearbook prank

"How old is Billy?"

One of several entertaining "disfrustrating puzzles" posted on the xkcd thread at Twitter, via Kottke.

The Onion reminds us

42 mass shootings so far this year.  And January isn't even over yet.

Large snowman in Minnesota

The image is not Photoshopped; the snowman is 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. 
"It took forty hours and the entire weekend, with temporary stairs up the backside to help get the 75-pound hat on top of Frosty's head." 
More details and a brief video at the local news station's website.

17 January 2023

Postulated explanation for Namibian "fairy circles"

They are not the same as the fungal "fairy rings."
Satellite imagery shows there could be millions of these “fairy circles” in the area, but scientists have debated what could explain the existence of even one, which can span up to 20 meters in diameter. Perhaps termites are chomping at the plant roots? Maybe the grasses are somehow creating the patterns? Or a toxin has decimated the soil?...

There must be very strongly ordering forces behind the creation of these pattern because otherwise it would be much more noisy, much less order,” said Stephan Getzin, who is a desert ecologist at the University of Göttingen and has published numerous papers on these circles. “That’s the fascination about the fairy circles.”

Now, Getzin and his colleagues have acquired new compelling evidence to explain the mysterious circles in the region. They point to a fierce competition among plants for water on the arid terrain. Researchers say periodic vegetation patterns like fairy circles could also increasingly pop up around the world under a warming climate. Simply put, plants may be battling one another to survive the dry conditions, stealing water away from their neighbors, which leaves a bare circle.
That explanation is debated, as per the discussion at the link.

Be wary if your company wants to make you a manager

Companies avoid paying about $4 billion in overtime wages by inventing dubious titles for US employees such as “director of first impressions” and “lead shower door installer,” according to new research on a common practice that skirts federal labor law.

The practice, often deployed by retail and restaurant companies, takes advantage of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which exempts firms  from paying overtime wages if the employee is a manager and gets paid a salary above a certain threshold. From 2010 to 2018, the researchers found a 485% increase in job postings for salaried employees in dodgy managerial roles where duties rarely included any actual management. Companies avoided paying overtime on more than 151 million work hours via this practice, the study found, costing workers an estimated $4 billion in pay.

Other suspect job titles identified by researchers included carpet shampoo manager, price scanning coordinator and guest experience leader...

The threshold for overtime pay used in the research was $455 a week, or $23,660 a year, which was increased to $684 a week in 2020.

“The findings are the tip of the iceberg,” the researchers said. “Overtime avoidance can occur at other salary levels too and in different ways.”
More at the Bloomberg link.

The rescue of a baby squirrel

A tip of the blogging cap to reader KenGilberg, who found this equally-delightful and more professionally-crafted video on the same subject:

My Duduś from The New York Times on Vimeo.

I should wait to post this on Mother's Day

Apple bonsai. With apple.

Some relevant discussion at Reddit.

Guess who the artist was (1913)

Answer at this Reddit discussion thread.

An interesting demographic trend

China’s population started shrinking in 2022 for the first time in six decades, the latest milestone in a worsening demographic crisis for the world’s second-largest economy.

The country had 1.41 billion people at the end of last year, 850,000 fewer than the end of 2021, according to data released by the National Statistics Bureau on Tuesday. That marks the first drop since 1961, the final year of the Great Famine under former leader Mao Zedong, and coincided with figures showing China’s economy expanded last year at the second-slowest pace since the 1970s...

A total of 10.41 million people died, a slight increase from around 10 million recorded in recent years. China suffered a surge in Covid-related deaths starting last month after abruptly dropping its zero-tolerance approach to the virus in early December. More Covid-related deaths will likely come this year as fatalities usually lag infections by weeks and infections are still spreading across the country. That outbreak could further push up the number of deaths this year. ..

The decline in newborns was the main cause of the population contraction, according to Kang Yi, head of the National Statistics Bureau. “That’s mainly a result of drop in people’s willingness to have babies, the delay in marriage and pregnancy, as well as a fall in number of women of child-bearing age,” Kang told reporters after a press briefing Tuesday...

Due to the decline, the Chinese economy may struggle to overtake the US in size and the nation could lose its status as the world’s most populous country to India this year.

As recently as 2019, the United Nations was forecasting that China’s population would peak in 2031 and then decline, but last year the UN had revised that estimate to see a peak at the start of 2022. The labor force is already shrinking, long-term demand for houses will fall likely further, and the government may also struggle to pay for its underfunded national pension system.
China's population trend may or may not reflect global ones, but the effect on their economy will ripple through to other economies, including especially the U.S., which is why this data was posted at Bloomberg.

I felt a little bad laughing at these...

The same compendium of pictures included this one:

Speaking as a former Texas resident, this was chuckleworthy.

08 January 2023


Some readers will be surprised that I take time off from blogging in January.  Bleak, cold winter days would seem to be ideal for sitting at a desk and blogging.  The problem is that bleak cold winter days are the perfect time to do all the things that have been postponed from the other three seasons.  I need to explore some family genealogy, sell stuff on eBay, give old books a final read, explore some new streaming sites (BritBox, Criterion) - projects that were deferred when good weather allowed me to be outdoors.

So if you haven't already cut back on TYWKIWDBI visits to a once/week schedule, now is the time to do so.  I'll still pop up with an occasional post - perhaps some linkdumps to clean out bookmark folders - but a weekly visit will certainly be enough to keep you au courant with the contents of the blog.  TTYL.

Photo credit of the raccoon on a Florida beach to Miroslav Srb, via the Comedy Wildlife photo competition for 2022.

One last Booth cartoon

I know I've posted this before, but it's so good that it's worth a repost.

03 January 2023

Sleepy Skunk mashup of the movies of 2022

Similar mashups from 2021, 2020, and earlier.

Here's a list of the movies and their times in the video (appears to be a working list still in progress currently up to 2:06).

A library is a space ship (and more...)

Via Open Culture, which provides context and additional links.

This Roman road is 1,800 years old

Comparisons to the durability of modern roads at Reddit.

Reposted from 2016 to add this interesting video on how the Romans constructed their roads (via Open Culture, where there is another video and additional links)

The bit about the "side ditches" is new to me, and interesting.  Perhaps there was a fee assessed for locals to use the roads and only limited access points.  A corollary would be that these Roman roads could be enormously disruptive to any local economy.

An amazing prediction from 1953

When I first encountered a version of this image on the internet I assumed it was photoshopped.  But Snopes confirms that this was an actual blurb in the Boston Globe in 1953.
"...the person making these claims was the president of a phone company and was likely privy to latest developments in the field. For instance, while it wouldn't be until the 1960s for the first cordless phone to be invented, and the 1980s for true mobile phones to hit the market, the foundations for these products were being laid prior to 1953... Sullivan wasn't the first to envision a smartwatch. While this product wasn't in development in the 1950s (as far as we can tell), smartwatches had popped up a few times in fictional content. Detective Dick Tracy's two-way watch radio made its debut in 1946."
Addendum: this comic strip from the 1920s:

Via Laughing Squid -
A rather prescient comic strip by W.K. Haselden released in either a 1919 or 1923 issue of the Daily Mirror predicted the existence of “pocket telephones” and the inconvenient times in which they would ring... As it turns out, rumors of a “pocket phone” had been ringing around the world since 1906.
More at the link.  With a hat tip to reader Joe in Aurora.
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