Baltimore Oriole. Female Bird Prize Winner. A bright-yellow female Baltimore oriole gathers a clump of horsehair and natural hemp and sisal fibers caught on a branch, to be used to build its nest. Photographed in Warren, Pennsylvania.
28 June 2023
In their new book “The Great Dechurching: Who’s Leaving, Why Are They Going and What Will It Take to Bring Them Back?” Jim Davis and Michael Graham with Ryan Burge argue that the most dramatic change may be in regular attendance at houses of worship. “We are currently in the middle of the largest and fastest religious shift in the history of our country,” they postulate, because “about 15 percent of American adults living today (around 40 million people) have effectively stopped going to church, and most of this dechurching has happened in the past 25 years.”..“No theological tradition, age group, ethnicity, political affiliation, education level, geographic location or income bracket escaped the dechurching in America.”The data they shared with me suggests that “dechurching” is particularly prevalent among Buddhists and Jews, with nearly half not attending worship services regularly, and around 30 percent of most Christian denominations and around 20 percent of Mormons and Orthodox Christians. (There weren’t enough Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in the sample for statistical certainty.)..But many said they did miss aspects of traditional attendance, and often these people still believed in God or certain aspects of their previous faith traditions. They’d sought replacements for traditional worship, and the most common were spending time in nature, meditation and physical activity — basically anything that got them out of their own heads and the anxieties of the material world...
"The Six Grandfathers (Tȟuŋkášila Šákpe) was named by Lakota medicine man Nicolas Black Elk after a vision. “The vision was of the six sacred directions: west, east, north, south, above, and below. The directions were said to represent kindness and love, full of years and wisdom, like human grandfathers.” The granite bluff that towered above the Hills remained carved only by the wind and the rain until 1927 when Gutzon Borglum began his assault on the mountain.
“What the Lord has revealed to me is that Mount Rushmore has a direct ley line to Washington, DC.,” Donnell said in the podcast clip that was tweeted. “In order to understand the spiritual realm of what we’re facing, we have to realize that in order for the enemy [Satan] to do anything, it needs the agreement of human beings. In order to be empowered to do more damage he needs the agreement of human beings and oftentimes that comes in the form of an altar that acts as a portal for other demonic things. What we’re really dealing with in that portal is communism.That witchcraft, altar, those things that are happening in the Black Hills, what we’re dealing with is communism. It’s the ideology and all the demonic entities and spirits behind that.”
"I have heard upscale adult U.S. citizens ask the ship’s Guest Relations Desk whether snorkeling necessitates getting wet, whether the trapshooting will be held outside, whether the crew sleeps on board, and what time the Midnight Buffet is."
26 June 2023
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who had taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and spirits; both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants of either gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night..."
"We accordingly went up a wonderful old staircase; with a balustrade so broad that we might have gone up that, almost as easily; and into a shady old drawing-room, lighted by some three or four of the quaint windows I had looked up at from the street: which had old oak seats in them, that seemed to have come of the same trees as the shining oak floor, and the great beams in the ceiling. It was a prettily furnished room, with a piano and some lively furniture in red and green, and some flowers. It seemed to be all old nooks and corners; and in every nook and corner there was some queer little table, or cupboard, or bookcase, or seat, or something or other, that made me think there was not such another good corner in the room; until I looked at the next one, and found it equal to it, if not better. On everything there was the same air of retirement and cleanliness that marked the house outside." (Chapter 15 at the Wickfield residence, describing a room I would love to live in).The word "picnic" is recurrently hyphenated as "pic-nic." Wiktionary indicates that the etymology is from a hypenated French word: pique-nique, from piquer (to pick) and nique (small thing) to refer to a meal eaten outdoors. The seque there is a bit obscure to me."... made some hasty but determined arrangements to throw her out of a two pair of stairs' window." (Chapter 1). "Pair of stairs" was a term for a flight of stairs, so the reference appears to be to a second-floor window, not a pair of windows."I sat looking at Peggotty for some time, in a reverie on this suppositious case: whether, if she were employed to lose me like the boy in the fairy tale, I should be able to track my way hone again by the buttons she would shed." Based on supposision; imaginary."Our old neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Grayper, were gone to South America, and the rain had made its way through the roof of their empty house, and stained the outer walls. Mr. Chillip was married again to a tall, raw–boned, high–nosed wife; and they had a weazen little baby, with a heavy head that it couldn't hold up, and two weak staring eyes, with which it seemed to be always wondering why it had ever been born."'There now!' said Uriah, looking flabby and lead-coloured in the moonlight. 'Didn't I know it! But how little you think of the rightful umbleness of a person in my station, Master Copperfield! Father and me was both brought up at a foundation school for boys; and mother, she was likewise brought up at a public, sort of charitable, establishment. They taught us all a deal of umbleness - not much else that I know of, from morning to night. We was to be umble to this person, and umble to that; and to pull off our caps here, and to make bows there; and always to know our place, and abase ourselves before our betters. And we had such a lot of betters! Father got the monitor-medal by being umble. So did I. Father got made a sexton by being umble. He had the character, among the gentlefolks, of being such a well-behaved man, that they were determined to bring him in. "Be umble, Uriah," says father to me, "and you'll get on. It was what was always being dinned into you and me at school; it's what goes down best. Be umble," says father," and you'll do!" And really it ain't done bad!' [classic Heep]"Under the temporary pressure of pecuniary liabilities, contracted with a view to their immediate liquidation, but remaining unliquidated through a combination of circumstances, I have been under the necessity of assuming a garb from which my natural instincts recoil—I allude to spectacles—and possessing myself of a cognomen, to which I can establish no legitimate pretensions." [classic Micawber]"Often and often, now, had I seen him in the dead of night passing along the streets, searching, among the few who loitered out of doors at those untimely hours, for what he dreaded to find.""I sit down by the fire thinking with a blind remorse of all those secret feelings I have nourished since my marriage. I think of every little trifle between me and Dora, and feel the truth, that trifles make the sum of life.""I now approach an event in my life, so indelible, so awful, so bound by an infinite variety of ties to all that has preceded it, in these pages, that, from the beginning of my narrative, I have seen it growing larger and larger as I advanced, like a great tower in a plain, and throwing its fore-cast shadow even on the incidents of my childish days." A literal usage of "forecast" as throwing something forward.
Disaster is rarely as pervasive as it seems from recorded accounts. The fact of being on the record makes it appear continuous and ubiquitous whereas it is more likely to have been sporadic both in time and place. Besides, persistence of the normal is usually greater than the effect of the disturbance, as we know from our own times. After absorbing the news of today, one expects to face a world consisting entirely of strikes, crimes, power failures, broken water mains, stalled trains, school shutdowns, muggers, drug addicts, neo-Nazis, and rapists. The fact is that one can come home in the evening, on a lucky day, without having encountered more than one or two of these phenomena. This has led me to formulate Tuchman's Law, as follows: "The fact of being reported multiplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to tenfold" (or any figure the reader would care to supply).--- Barbara Wertheim Tuchman (1912 – 1989), author of The Guns of August, A Distant Mirror, and The First Salute, among others.
Reposted from 2012 after finishing a reread of A Distant Mirror. Note to self: best chapters for future rereads are Chapter 3 (summary of 14th century), 5 (Black Death), 20 (Second Norman Conquest) and 27 final paragraphs.
Exemplaria published a fascinating article in 1998. Here's part of the abstract:
Shadowy as its source is now, there exists a medieval tale of theatrical representation that seems almost impossible to believe. It prompted a series of engaged electronic queries and communications on the PERFORM discussion group 1 and also (independently) a dose of skepticism from theorist Richard Schechner, who hastened to emphasize the vast ideological difference between imitation and reality.Did an on-stage execution really take place in 1549 in the city of Tournai or not?
According to somewhat questionable evidence about a biblical drama performed in Tournai, the “actor” playing Judith actually beheaded a convicted murderer who had briefly assumed the “role” of Holofernes long enough to be killed during the “play” to thunderous ap- plause. In his work on the history of French theater in Belgium, Frederic Faber scrupulously reconstructs the festive circumstances of this incident associated with the royal entry of Philip II. [see text image at top]
The source article is long (34 pages), and I can't even begin to do it justice with excerpts, It addresses the (unsolved) question of whether this reported execution in a public theater was real, or legendary, or whether it was "staged." Surprisingly (to me) medieval artists had the capacity to perform impressive "special effects" -
An excellent read - especially for Halloween. Here's the link again: Medieval Snuff Drama, via Medievalists.net.
Tell her the people that sell them say they're flushable. The people that repair plumbing say they're not. Who would you believe?I mean, they are literally flushable so they aren’t lying. So are 18 golf balls and flip phones.Had hammers, hockey pucks, hot wheels.. This is all in a retirement trailer park. Unsure how the hammer got to the pumping station...There was a prison I used to inspect that had a major drug problem. Turned out visitors were flushing them down the visitors bathroom toilet, which was outside the secured visitors area. Drugs would wash up on the screens at the WWTP out back and the inmates that worked there would retrieve them. That was the end of inmates working in the plant.I lived in a condo complex with 2 buildings and a central sewer line down the middle. The sewer line backed up and flooded the lane to our porches. The city came to rotor the line. One neighbor had flushed a dead 18” spider plant. It made it through the neighbors line but blocked up the central 6” line.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that an American billionaire, in possession of sufficient fortune, must be in want of a Supreme Court justice. Nothing seems to bring billionaires so much simple joy as having a personal justice to accompany them on yacht and fishing trips, flights on their private planes and jaunts to rustic lodges where the wine was certainly not $1,000 a bottle (in Justice Samuel A. Alito’s opinion). Instead of getting upset (which is unproductive and irritates the people who decide whether we can vote and control our bodies), we need to acknowledge that people who want their own Supreme Court justices are going to get them — if they are wealthy enough. Instead of pretending that a code of ethics can prevent this, let’s find a better system so we can end all this sneaking around."
"The way that Yevgeny Prigozhin declared a mutiny, advanced a long way toward Moscow, and then agreed to stop and go home makes no sense. Neither does the way Putin accused him of treason, and then appeared to agree to forget about all of it. We still have a lot to learn about what just happened, as well as what will happen next. It’s just faintly possible that the whole thing was staged, for some reason nobody can yet grasp. But I don’t think this can possibly be the end of the story. Even if it was all some weird charade, what Prigozhin did took Russia into new territory.These words came from Prigozhin on Telegram. They’ve been widely disseminated. They cannot be unsaid. And at present, he isn’t going to be punished for saying them. It’s hard to see how this doesn’t profoundly change the balance of forces in Russia, and indeed Putin’s grip on power. The translation was provided by Marko Papic of Clocktower Group:"As far as I know, Zelenskiy was open to anything when he became president. All we had to do was get down from our high horse and go make a deal. The entire western Ukraine is populated by genetically Russian people. What is happening now is that we are just killing Russians...Why was the war needed? It was needed so that a bunch of _____ [bad word] at the top could show their might and get some good PR. Second, the war was needed for the oligarchs. It was needed for the clan that today pretty much rules Russia. This oligarch clan receives everything it possibly can."These things have been unsayable until now. The possibility that the whole invasion was a bad idea from the get-go, motivated by internal machinations, is now in the Russian political bloodstream. Even if this was some brilliantly staged deception from a John le Carre novel to give Putin the excuse to clamp down, it makes no sense that Prigozhin was allowed to say this. However it ends, and whether or not Prigozhin is still alive in a few weeks, this episode must weaken Putin and the current regime. And it cannot be over."
23 June 2023
Tunnel books (also called peepshow books) consist of a set of pages bound with two folded concertina strips on each side and viewed through a hole in the cover. Openings in each page allow the viewer to see through the entire book to the back, and images on each page work together to create a dimensional scene inside. This type of book dates from the mid-18th century and was inspired by theatrical stage sets. Traditionally, these books were often created to commemorate special events or sold as souvenirs of tourist attractions. The term "tunnel book" derives from the fact that many of these books were made to commemorate the building of the tunnel under the Thames River in London in the mid-19th century. In the United States, tunnel books were made for such attractions as World's Fairs and the New York Botanical Gardens.
19 June 2023
"Global oceans are so hot right now, scientists all around the world are struggling to explain the phenomenon. Sea surface temperatures in June are so far above record territory it is being deemed almost statistically impossible in a climate without global heating. In the North Atlantic Ocean — which was already way above record levels — temperatures have strikingly shot directly upwards over the past two weeks...To the south across the Tropical Atlantic, this odd and persistent configuration of atmospheric steering and pressure systems has resulted in record-shattering heat. Sea surface temperatures are so hot across the “main development region” (seen in deep red between Africa and the Caribbean) they have already reached levels expected during peak hurricane season in September.
The indictment also related an account of a meeting in July 2021 when Mr. Trump brandished a “plan of attack” against Iran to visitors at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J.To the apparent discomfort of his aides — one of whom declared, “Now we have a problem” amid laughter — Mr. Trump admitted that he could have declassified the “highly confidential” document when he was president, but now it was too late because he was out of office.And yet, as the indictment described in painful detail, he almost seemed unable to control himself.
17 June 2023
In 1998 Anne Fadiman published Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. The book is a compilation of essays she authored for Civilization, the magazine of the Library of Congress, and each of the eighteen chapters is an unabashed paean to the written word. There are chapters on marrying libraries, the joy of unusual words (see below), the composition of personal libraries, annotating and writing in books, dedicatory inscriptions in books, reading in unusual or famous places, reflexive proofreading of the everyday world, and plagiarism.
I won't undertake a proper review - just a couple excerpts:
“My daughter is seven, and some of the other second-grade parents complain that their children don't read for pleasure. When I visit their homes, the children's rooms are crammed with expensive books, but the parent's rooms are empty. Those children do not see their parents reading, as I did every day of my childhood. By contrast, when I walk into an apartment with books on the shelves, books on the bedside tables, books on the floor, and books on the toilet tank, then I know what I would see if I opened the door that says 'PRIVATE--GROWNUPS KEEP OUT': a child sprawled on the bed, reading.”Other new words for me: interlarding, soidisant, bibliolatrous, nonesuch, postulant slomped, villanelle, bibliopegic, bibliobibacity, and enchiridion.
Words from the chapter "The Joy of Sesquipedalians" - monophysite, mephitic, calineries, diapason, grimoire, adapertile, retromingent, perllan, cupellation, adytum, sepoy, subadar, paludal, apozeical, camorra, ithyphallic, alcalde, aspergill, agathodemon, kakodemon, goetic, opopanax.
"... even when one is no longer attached to things, it's still something to have been attached to them."
“The familiar essayist didn't speak to the millions; he spoke to one reader, as if the two of them were sitting side by side in front of a crackling fire with their cravats loosened, their favorite stimulants at hand, and a long evening of conversation stretching before them. His viewpoint was subjective, his frame of reference concrete, his style digressive, his eccentricities conspicuous, and his laughter usually at his own expense.”
07 June 2023
I’ve always wondered what the night sky would look like if we could see the two Milky Way arches from the winter and summer side by side. This is practically impossible, since they are part of a whole and are visible at different times of the day.However, this 360-degree time-blended panorama shows us what they would look like. The two arches of the Milky Way represent one object in the starry sky, with part of it visible in winter and part of it in summer. Therefore, they are called the winter and summer arches. The winter arch includes objects that we can observe from October to March, primarily associated with the constellation Orion.On the other hand, the summer arch features the Milky Way core, visible from March to September, which is the most characteristic and luminous part of the night sky, representing the center of our galaxy.
06 June 2023
There are various ways in which crossword puzzles can be interesting - sometimes from the content, sometimes from the construction. I remember one NYT crossword in which the constructor was able to incorporate the letter "Z" 40 times in the grid. The most wickedly fiendish clue I've seen was "Line just before a comma" (7) [answer in the Comments].
05 June 2023
A reedy voice-over—from an A.I.-generated vocal model, trained on Harry Dean Stanton’s monologue from the film “Paris, Texas”—reads a script written by Trillo, a voice mail on an answering machine, mourning the loss of possibilities and memories, perhaps of the ruins of a relationship...To make the clips, Trillo first generated still images that suggested the scenes he had in mind using the A.I. tool Stable Diffusion... in seconds, it was possible to render, for example, a tracking shot of a woman crying alone in a softly lit restaurant. His prompt included a hash of S.E.O.-esque terms meant to goad the machine into creating a particularly cinematic aesthetic: “Moody lighting, iconic, visually stunning, immersive, impactful.” ..It doesn’t matter that the scenes don’t look perfectly real; their oneiric [pertaining to dreams] quality makes them all the more haunting, doubling the plaintiveness of the voice-over. Photorealism wouldn’t match the material, though the film comes close enough to be briefly mistaken for real...The phrase “A.I.-generated film” is something of a misnomer. In Trillo’s case, the director wrote a script, assembled a visual aesthetic, determined which scenes to create, selected from Runway’s results, and then edited the clips into a threaded, thematically coherent finished product. Generative tools supplied the media—voice, faces, scenery, and animation—but the human creative element is still present in every step of the process.
Plotting life expectancy in the United States against that of other wealthy countries reveals three dark insights: Our life spans lag behind those of our peers; our life expectancy was already more or less flat, not growing; and most other countries bounced back from covid-19 in the second year of the pandemic, while we went into further decline...Unless the country changes course, and soon, the structural conditions responsible for the shorter lives and poorer health of Americans will continue to claim lives and weaken the country. It is not just the old who pay the price. Young and middle-aged Americans are now more likely to die in the prime of their lives, devastating families and communities and taking a hard toll on our economic productivity. Even more disturbing, in a change never recorded in the past century, the probability that children and adolescents will live to age 20 is now decreasing.
Before she became a patient, April had been an outgoing, straight-A student majoring in accounting at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. But after a traumatic event when she was 21, April suddenly developed psychosis and became lost in a constant state of visual and auditory hallucinations. The former high school valedictorian could no longer communicate, bathe or take care of herself...
Markx and his colleagues discovered that although April’s illness was clinically indistinguishable from schizophrenia, she also had lupus, an underlying and treatable autoimmune condition that was attacking her brain. After months of targeted treatments — and more than two decades trapped in her mind — April woke up.
April had undergone many courses of treatment — antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and electroconvulsive therapy — all to no avail... Even though April had all the clinical signs of schizophrenia, the team believed that the underlying cause was lupus, a complex autoimmune disorder in which the immune system turns on its own body, producing many antibodies that attack the skin, joints, kidneys or other organs. But April’s symptoms weren’t typical, and there were no obvious external signs of the disease; the lupus appeared to be affecting only her brain...
As part of a standard cognitive test known as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), she was asked to draw a clock — a common way to assess cognitive impairment. Before the treatment, she tested at the level of a dementia patient, drawing indecipherable scribbles. But within the first two rounds of treatment, she was able to draw half a clock — as if one half of her brain was coming back online, Markx said. Following the third round of treatment a month later, the clock looked almost perfect...While it is likely that only a subset of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and psychotic disorders have an underlying autoimmune condition, Markx and other doctors believe there are probably many more patients whose psychiatric conditions are caused or exacerbated by autoimmune issues.
During the past few years providing grape jelly to orioles has become a popular alternative to the traditional orange slices/halves. Grape Jelly was a convenient energy food as it is a “semi solid” substance even in colder temperatures and easy to keep contained in a bowl. It provides a quick source of energy during migration. But then…for whatever reason, the use of jelly, the stuff we’ve always understood to be sticky, even as it covers the faces and clothing of our own children, bypassed logical use, and morphed into a multi-species, year-round jelly feeding frenzied fad. A problem in hot weather is jelly “melts i.e. liquifies” somewhat and therefore more available to adhere to the birds body, feet and feathers. Some people added water to the jelly and began serving it in larger bowls. This fad occurred even within the birding community. Businesses became involved, developing new types of jelly feeders and bird specific jelly. A photo that became my own personal nightmare was on a birding site recently. It was of an adult Baltimore Oriole perched on “jelly feeders” and feeding the jelly to their own babies. That behavior is outside the natural history of this species and causes more questions about changes that may be happening due to a high sugar diet. Orange halves are a healthier and more safe way to provide a high energy food.
02 June 2023
A group of "space Marines" are returning from defending our planet against carnivorous alien invaders. 79 per cent of the Marines have lost an arm, 84 per cent have lost a leg, 76 per cent have lost an ear, and 71 per cent have lost an eye. It clearly was one heck of a battle.
What percentage of these combatants, at the very least, must have lost all four body parts?
I have changed the circumstances and the numbers, because this math puzzle was first formulated in the 1800s by Carolus Lodovicus, a famous Oxfordian mathematician, and I didn't want you guys to Google the keywords. If your answer is anything other than zero, you must explain why. This is the final exam; the result counts for 100% of your grade for the semester. Summer vacation begins tomorrow.
Credit for finding this goes to Anne Fadiman.
The title is a delightful mnemonic for remembering the order of "kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species." I found it in Anne Fadiman's most recent book "At Large and At Small," which I am currently thoroughly enjoying.
Appleton, some 200 miles north of Chicago, is a small college city nestled on the shores of the meandering Fox River. Two assistant professors at a local liberal arts college, Dr. Israel Del Toro and Dr. Relena Ribbons of Lawrence University, knew that No Mow May was popular in Britain. They wondered if the initiative might take root here, too.They began working with the Appleton Common Council, and, in 2020, Appleton became the first city in the United States to adopt No Mow May, with 435 homes registering to take part...Dr. Del Toro and Dr. Ribbons studied the impacts of No Mow May on Appleton’s bees. They found that No Mow May lawns had five times the number of bees and three times the bee species than did mown parks. Armed with this information, they asked other communities to participate.By 2021, a dozen communities across Wisconsin had adopted No Mow May. It also spread to communities in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Montana.I learned about No Mow May in the fall of 2020 when I was looking to make my own yard more friendly to bees. The following spring, I helped organize No Mow May in Shorewood Hills, Wis., where I live. When I realized how quickly the movement was spreading, I started photographing it across Wisconsin...Not everyone appreciated the unmown lawns. Allison Roberts, a resident of Prairie du Chien, Wis., participated in No Mow May even though her city hadn’t adopted it. After a few weeks, she awoke from a nap to find police officers pounding on her door.“Apparently, they were here to ensure I was not dead,” she said.Nor were her neighbors happy with her shaggy lawn. One of them, unable to stand the sight of it, eventually mowed it without her permission.
"Such rules don’t mandate that you let your weeds and grass go shaggy in May, but municipalities simply won’t punish residents who choose to let their lawns go. By June 1, enforcement of lawn length generally resumes, and residents will be required to keep those lawns nice and tidy once again."
People who chose not to mow were rewarded with rare plants. More than 250 wild plant species were recorded by gardeners last year, including wild strawberry, wild garlic and very rare plants including adder’s-tongue fern, meadow saxifrage, snakeshead fritillary and eyebright. Many orchids were also seen, including the declining man orchid, green-winged orchid, southern and northern marsh orchid and bee orchid.
In addition to Edina, Monticello, Vadnais Heights and New Brighton are among the Minnesota cities participating in No Mow May for the first time. Those municipalities will not enforce city codes that restrict lawns from exceeding a maximum turf length (10 inches in Edina and Vadnais Heights, 8 inches in Monticello and New Brighton) during the month of May... ""The best part about it is it doesn't cost anything to do it and it makes such a big difference."
Dandelion (Taxaracum officinale) is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout most of North America. The flowers are visited by many pollinators and are an important nectar source early in the season when few other flowers are blooming. Their deep taproots help to loosen and aerate soil as well as pull nutrients like calcium from deep in the soil, which makes the nutrients available to other plants once dandelion leaves decompose. Several bird species also eat dandelion flowers, buds, and seeds.