30 August 2023

Interesting mathematical card trick

I'm going to try to add this to my repetoire.  The video also demonstrates two different fake shuffles, which are useful tools for many tricks, and also one apparently not-to-difficult-to-do way to force a card onto the victim.  After that the trick is a purely mathematical one - which in itself is interesting.

But... one thing I've noticed is that the victim is instructed to create a random number "somewhere in the millions."  But apparently you need to stop the victim at that point because if the random number is in the hundreds of millions, the resultant addend might become too high for the trick to work (i.e. greater than 27).  Perhaps could be compensated for by including a fourth or fifth duplicate card.

28 August 2023

Divertimento #194 (gifs)

This is the first linkdump since last December, and I'm starting with the oldest of the hundreds I've saved; some may need to be unmuted (or muted).  Most of these come from Reddit, so I'll include this helpful comment from a reader: "The new Reddit layout excludes the video... [if the video is not visible], either you or they can replace "www.reddit.com" with "old.reddit.com" in the URL to see the video (until Reddit removes that option, at least).
Another way to tie a tie
Preserving the memories (and bodies) of your ancestors
Snake removal in Malaysia
Spreading gravel on a driveway
How century eggs are made
Plush toy contributions for Turkish earthquake victim children
Quality control in the manufacture of shuttlecocks
Motorcycle rider described as a "human crayon"
Traditional dance with a heavy flaming headdress
Repairing a water main without shutting off the water

Why does this bear straighten up a traffic cone?
A painted wolf and her puppies
Lineus fuscoviridis, a type of ribbon worm
A cat's reaction time is faster than a snake
Acorn stockpile is vandalized (post says squirrel; I suspect woodpecker)
Crocodiles can gallop (for short distances)
Shoebill stork clatters its beak
Goat enjoys inhaling smoke
Scorpions (presumably at a farm - not an "abandoned house")
Bearded vultures eat bones whole
Newly discovered "spikey" crab

Nature and Science
How the human radius twists over the ulna
Full rotation of the moon via from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
The sludge that collects in the bottom of an acquarium is called mulm
Fossilized dinosaur egg with embryo in situ
An example of cauliflory
Tidal vortex in British Columbia

Impressive or clever
Narnia wardrobe leads to a hidden room
London New Year's fireworks (deserves full-screen view)
An interesting way to serve butter
Starting a fire with a hammer
LED drone used for nighttime rescue operations
A "knight's tour" on a chessboard, nicely animated
Creating laser-engraved wooden maps of cities
A beach marble race must be fun to set up
Young man solves three Rubik cubes while juggling them
Using a liver crab to retrieve a shirt
French bulldog is amazingly good on a skateboard

Sports and athleticism
Child spins vigorously without getting dizzy
Seven-ball active-bounced cascade juggling
1958 NFL championship halftime show
Two young girls with impressive jump rope skills
Parkour jump between buildings

Fails and wtf
Real-life human version of the Frogger game
Woman attacked by tiger in drive-thru animal park
What could go wrong filming yourself for likes
Booby trap in a meth house
Hold my beer while I pour gasoline on this firepit
Auto insurance may not cover this shitty behavior
Law enforcement officer steals property while on duty
Car accident with wheel returning to finish the job
A demonstration "proving" that meat has been injected with COVID vaccine
CEO cancels all her employees' bonuses, but keeps her own $6+ million one

Humorous or cheerful [for more, see the MadeMeSmile subreddit]
Mystery of a toddler's haircut solved
Teacher gives student a drum set
Another elderly lady gets turquoise hair.  Read the blurb below the video
Saving the best for last: three glorious minutes of happy dogs

The embedded photos are selections from a gallery of images of an abandoned palace, created by Levaronne Lourens, a photographer from the Netherlands who specializes in imaging historical and architectural remains.  His website is here.  I just sampled one of his many galleries.  There are some extraordinary photos at the link.

26 August 2023

"The Kubrick Stare"

This analysis from Far Out:
However, the most notable trademark used by the director is the iconic Kubrick stare. The technique can be traced in almost all of his films, although it finds its ‘official’ origins in A Clockwork Orange. Throughout the movie, Malcolm McDowell’s menacing protagonist, Alex DeLarge, glances at the camera with a terrifying stare as if acknowledging the audience’s presence...

However, the iconic look, soon dubbed the ‘Kubrick stare’, shortly became its own form of cinematic shorthand. Other directors began incorporating the stare into their work, and movie buffs quickly recognised examples of the Kubrick stare in films that predated the director’s establishment of the specific gaze. For example, Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates gives a particularly chilling look in Psycho that many have classed as a Kubrick stare

Notable modern uses of the Kubrick stare can be found in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight courtesy of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. So, why is there so much significance placed on this iconic stare? It’s a simple look, yet the meaning it conveys is vital. It typically signifies that the character is unstable and deranged. When an actor performs the Kubrick stare, something intense will likely take place. Due to the technique’s recognisable status, when it is used in non-Kubrick-directed films, audiences can still interpret its meaning the same.
And this from TV Tropes:
The Kubrick Stare is really quite simple to pull off. You simply do the following:
1. Tilt head down
2. Look up beneath eyebrows
...and voila! Instant super-creepy look!

It generally signifies that the character in question is either really, really pissed or really, really deranged, and the person they're looking at is really, really screwed. Other times — usually when combined with a smile — it means they're feeling really, really clever (regardless of whether or not they actually are).
A compilation:

"All About Eve"

I can't believe I got to my current oldish age without having seen this extraordinary movie.
The film stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a highly regarded but aging Broadway star, and Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington, an ambitious young fan who maneuvers herself into Channing's life, ultimately threatening Channing's career and her personal relationships. The film co-stars George Sanders, Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, and Hugh Marlowe, and features Thelma Ritter, Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest roles, Gregory Ratoff, Barbara Bates and Walter Hampden.

All About Eve held its world premiere in New York City on October 13, 1950. Praised by critics at the time of its release, All About Eve received a record 14 nominations at the 23rd Academy Awards, becoming the only film in Oscar history to receive four female acting nominations (Davis and Baxter as Best Actress, Holm and Ritter as Best Supporting Actress). It went on to win six awards, including Best Picture, as well as Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, Mankiewicz's second consecutive wins in both categories. Widely considered as among the greatest films of all time, in 1990, it became one of 25 films selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress's National Film Registry, deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film was ranked No. 16 on AFI's 1998 list of the 100 best American films.
Watched it tonight on the Criterion Channel.  Outstanding.  Rotten Tomatoes 99%.  Some of the best dialogue I can ever remember hearing.

25 August 2023

23 August 2023

Uff da

Not the worst in the area.  The heat index in the town of Sullivan, between here and Milwaukee, rose to 126 today.  Almost incredible at this latitude.

A modern long barrow

Another interesting video by Tom Scott, featuring the Soulton Long Barrow which began construction in 2014.  It is a surprisingly beautiful structure, created for educational and spiritual purposes by a young man who speaks with great sensitivity regarding the purpose of the project.

Via Neatorama, because Miss C and John Farrier keep finding all sorts of neat stuff before I do...

Would you notice this bill if you received it in change?

Image cropped for size from the papermoney subreddit, where its extra value is discussed ("Redeemable in gold..." from 1928).

22 August 2023

An interesting story about earwax and the human microbiome

I recently chatted with a cousin who is a physician in Florida.  He told me about a patient in their clinic system who for years had been plagued by chronic otitis externa (inflammation of the ear canal; "swimmer's ear").  
Otitis externa may be acute (lasting less than six weeks) or chronic (lasting more than three months). Acute cases are typically due to bacterial infection, and chronic cases are often due to allergies and autoimmune disorders. The most common cause of Otitis externa is bacterial. Risk factors for acute cases include swimming, minor trauma from cleaning, using hearing aids and ear plugs, and other skin problems, such as psoriasis and dermatitis. People with diabetes are at risk of a severe form of malignant otitis externa. Diagnosis is based on the signs and symptoms. Culturing the ear canal may be useful in chronic or severe cases.
This patient had received multiple courses of conventional therapy (cleaning, eardrops, antibiotics etc) with no resolution of the process.  Then one day he returned to clinic in total remission - asymptomatic and with a normal otoscopic exam.  When he was asked what recent treatment had worked, he replied that he had taken some earwax from his "good ear" and placed it in his "bad ear."  After that, the inflammation had subsided and then resolved.  

This is an anecdotal case report, from a series of n=1, and as far as I know is unpublished, but it is clearly suggestive of the importance of the individual's microbioime.  Of note, this event occurred many years before even the concept of the human microbiome had been understood or published.  The patient figured this out on his own.

The best single longread about the human microbiome is probably this one at the National Library of Medicine.

"Missing print error" banknote

I've never seen one like this before.  Described at the papermoney subreddit as having the second print missing ("The face design is printed after the back but before the serial numbers and seals.")  More information at PMG.

21 August 2023

Allegations about Ron DeSantis at Guantanamo may be unfounded

Excerpts from "See No Evil", published in Harper's Magazine, March 2023:

From a November discussion on the Eyes Left podcast, between Mike Prysner, an Iraq War veteran, and Mansoor Adayfi, a former detainee at Guantánamo Bay.
mansoor adayfi: As you know, Guantánamo was created out of the legal zone, out of the legal system. Torture was the mechanism of Guantánamo. Torture, abuse, and experimenting on prisoners. We went on a massive hunger strike in 2005. And there was force-feeding. It was torture.

I saw a fucking handsome person come in and he said, “I’m here to ensure that you are treated humanely.”

mike prysner: It was Ron DeSantis?

adayfi: Yes. And, “If you have any problems, if you have any concerns, just talk to me.” We were drowning in that place. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool. This person will raise the concerns.” But it was a piece of the game. What they were doing was looking for what hurts us more so they could use it against us. In 2006, when DeSantis was there, it was one of the worst times at Guantánamo. The administration, the guards, all of them were the worst. They cracked down on us so hard. When they came to break our hunger strike, a team came to us. The head of the team, he was a general. He said, “I have a job. I was sent here to break your fucking hunger strike. I don’t care why you are here. I don’t care who you are. My job is to make you eat. Today we are talking. Tomorrow there will be no talking.” The second day, they brought piles of Ensure and they started force-feeding us over and over again.

prysner: For those who don’t know, Ensure is a thick milky nutritional shake mainly marketed on daytime television to elderly people. It is very hard to drink.

adayfi: Yes, and Ron DeSantis was there watching us. We were crying, screaming. We were tied to the feeding chair. And he was watching. He was laughing. Our stomachs could not hold this amount of Ensure. They poured one can after another. So when he approached me, I said, “This is the way we are treated!” He said, “You should eat.” I threw up in his face. Literally on his face...

prysner: It was well deserved. A JAG lawyer at the time, he would have been well aware this was a violation of international law. There is no question that it was torture.

adayfi: They used to restrain us in that feeding chair. They tied our head, our shoulders, our wrists, our thighs, and our legs. They put some kind of laxative in the feeding liquid. We were shitting ourselves all the time. Then we were moved to solitary confinement—really cold cells. It was like five times a day. It wasn’t feeding. It was just torture. Five times a day. You can’t possibly handle it. They just kept pouring the Ensure. In one week, they broke all the hunger strikers. And he was there. All of them were watching. They also used to beat us. And if we screamed or were bleeding out of our nose and mouth, they were like, “Eat.” The only word they told you was “eat.” We were beaten all day long. Whatever you were doing—they just beat you. Pepper spray, beating, sleep deprivation. That continued for three months. And he was there. He was one of the people that supervised the torture, the abuses, the beatings. All the time at Guantánamo.

prysner: So Ron DeSantis was actually supervising torture, beatings? He was supervising these force-feedings?

adayfi: I’m telling Americans: this guy is a torturer. He is a criminal. He was laughing. And he was there to ensure we were treated humanely.

prysner: He was laughing?

adayfi: Yes, they were looking at us, laughing because we were shitting ourselves. I was screaming and yelling. When your stomach is full of Ensure you can’t breathe. And you are throwing up at the same time. I was screaming. I looked at him and he was actually smiling. Like someone who was enjoying it...

prysner: So he basically was gathering intelligence to tell the interrogators what it was that was impacting you most so they could do it more.

adayfi: I remember when we were talking about the noise in the night. We were talking about the vacuums, the generators, the fans, and everything. And they brought more stuff.

prysner: You told DeSantis this and then they increased the noise?

adayfi: They increased the noise. And also the food, for example. We told him we don’t eat meat. What the guards did after that is they mixed all the food with meat.
More at the link.  This is unlikely to come up at the Republican debate this week, so I'll present it here.  The mic is open for your comments; please keep them civil.

Addendum:  Related onnline articles from the mainstream media -

The Guardian, April 2023 "questions haunt the Florida governor"

Rolling Stone, July 2023 "documentary about this has been cancelled"

Forbes, June 2023 "Showtime pulls show about this"

The Hill, April 2023 "DeSantis fumes, calls this 'totally bullshit'"

Addendum:  DeSantis' military service came up during the debate, during which he said he was deployed "with the Navy SEALs."  The Daily Beast clarified that..
"DeSantis also spent time during his JAG career stationed at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was an assistant urinalysis coordinator."

Addendum September 24: "A former prisoner’s story of mistreatment at the hands of Ron DeSantis made headlines. But The New York Times found no evidence to back it up... an examination of military records and interviews with detainees’ lawyers and service members who served at the same time as Mr. DeSantis found no evidence to back up the claims. The New York Times interviewed more than 40 people who served with Mr. DeSantis or around the same time and none recalled witnessing or even hearing of any episodes like the ones Mr. Adayfi described."  More information at The New York Times.

World-class yo-yo champion

His attitude onstage is described as "invincible endboss behavior."  New word for me. 

17 August 2023

If Winnie the Pooh were in a school shooting...

From the August 2023 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Diagnosing scabies with a "burrow ink test"

"... when a papule on the wrist was covered with a purple skin marker (Panel B) and then wiped with an alcohol swab, an ink-filled skin burrow became visible (Panel C). On the basis of this positive “burrow ink test,” a diagnosis of scabies was made. Scabies is a pruritic skin infestation caused by Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, the only mite known to burrow into the stratum corneum. The burrow ink test is a simple, rapid, and inexpensive method to visualize the pathognomonic burrows."
This was new to me.  You learn something every day.  The full case report is at The New England Journal of Medicine.

Vocal fry ("creaky voice") explained

An interesting and well-done video.  I haven't even finished watching it, but I'm going to put it up on the blog and finish watching after getting chores done.

Finished listening.  This guy is excellent at incorporating both science and sociology into the discussion.  There is one extended advertisement from 3:30-6:20.  If you want the high point, try the segment from 6:45-7:15, but if you stop there you will miss out on lots of funny parts, including James Bond, George Sanders and even REDRUM.

Half an hour well-spent IMHO.

14 August 2023

Denez Prigent & Lisa Gerrard - Gortoz A Ran

I originally blogged this song in 2009 and 2010 when it was used as the background audio for a tsunami video and for a Black Hawk Down video.  Reblogging now because the original links have undergone linkrot.  This version has the advantage of including the lyrics (in Breton and English) at the YouTube link.

Re-reposted from 2019 because the song continues to fascinate me.  I have challenged several friends to identify the language while listening to the song; nobody has been successful.  I doubt that it would help even if I had let them view the written lyrics:
Gortozet 'm eus, gortozet pell
E skeud teñval tourioù gell
E skeud teñval tourioù gell

E skeud teñval an tourioù glav

C'hwi am gwelo 'c'hortoz atav

C'hwi am gwelo 'c'hortoz atav

Un deiz a vo 'teuio en-dro
Dreist ar maezioù, dreist ar morioù

'Teuio en-dro an avel c'hlas
Da analañ va c'halon c'hloaz't

Kaset e vin diouzh e alan
Pell gant ar red, hervez 'deus c'hoant

Hervez 'deus c'hoant pell eus ar bed
Etre ar mor hag ar stered  
More about the Breton language.


12 August 2023

Madeline's first train ride

The sheer unadulterated joy of a child having a new experience.  We have all undoubtedly had a variety of these when we were young, and sadly that sensation is hard to replicate as an adult.  But we can share hers vicariously.

Discussion at the MadeMeSmile subreddit.

Reposted (once again) to accompany an adjacent post about train rides, but mostly because it is one of my all-time favorite video clips.

More aphorisms and witticisms

Collected from everywhere, stored forever, source attributions lost:

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

Atheism is a non-prophet organization. 

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. 

If a mute swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap? 

If a man is standing in the middle of the forest speaking and there is no woman around to hear him...is he still wrong? 

Is there another word for synonym? 

Isn't it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do "practice?" 

Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?" 

If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent? 
How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign? 

What was the best thing before sliced bread?  

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. 

If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting? 

If you ate pasta and antipasta, would you still be hungry? 

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done? 

Politicians are like diapers: they need to be changed frequently.  And for the same reason.

"When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours.  That's relativity." -- Albert Einstein

It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go.

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest.

Reposted from 2020. 

What makes an Einstein cross?

"A team of astronomers recently found a new [Einstein cross] using the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument mounted on a telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory... The lens system, called DESI-253.2534+26.8843, is actually a massive foreground elliptical galaxy surrounded by four blue images of a background galaxy. Team leader Aleksandar Cikota of NOIRLab, pointed out what those images that form a perfect Einstein Cross pattern reveal. “The four images that display consistent spectral features tell the astronomers that the source is a single galaxy, which allowed them to confirm the lens system,” he said. “The cross pattern tells them about the mass distribution of the lens galaxy. Elongated mass distributions result in Einstein crosses, and a spherical mass distribution would result in an Einstein ring.

This latest Einstein Cross has some interesting statistics. The main galaxy doing the lensing lies about 5.998 billion light-years away. The distant galaxy that it’s lensing is more than 11.179 billion light-years away. Thus, the foreground lensing galaxy is giving an amazing look at a galaxy in the early Universe...

When a massive galaxy sits directly “in front of” a more distant background object (such as a galaxy or a quasar) the distribution of matter around that galaxy and its gravitational effect can “bend” the light from the object as it passes by. That results in lensed images (or a ring)..."
"Hubble image of a luminous red galaxy (LRG) gravitationally distorting the light from a much more distant blue galaxy, a technique known as gravitational lensing. The shape of the galaxy doing the lensing created an almost circular image. An oblong galaxy would create an Einstein Ring effect. Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI"
Text, images, and post title via Universe Today, where there is more information.

04 August 2023


My blogging has been slowing down for the past several weeks.  I need to take a week off to recharge my enthusiasm.

The Hitchcock cameos

There are all sorts of YouTube videos that are compilations of the scenes in which Alfred Hitchcock inserted himself into his movies in a brief cameo appearance.  The video below goes one step further by creating a storyline involving those cameo characters. 

It's a fun exercise for the cinephile to try to identify all of the excerpts from the films listed at the top of this post.  Have a go...

Consider the Milky Way...

The human mind is not capable of contemplating the vastness of a universe, so this video encourages the viewer to contemplate instead a rather tiny, cosmically insignificant galaxy - our Milky Way.  It is, after all, the only thing we can see in our night sky (except for the Andromeda galaxy).  This presentation is an attempt to give us a perspective on its size. (via Neatorama)
"...you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.”

Why some electric outlets are installed "upside down"

Explanation and discussion in the comment thread at the AskElectricians subreddit.

You learn something every day.
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