28 October 2023

How to remove a spider from your ear

A 64-year-old woman with hypertension presented to the otolaryngology clinic with a 4-day history of abnormal sounds in her left ear. On the day of symptom onset, she had awoken to the feeling of a creature moving inside her left ear. Subsequent incessant beating, clicking, and rustling sounds had led to insomnia. On physical examination, a small spider was seen moving within the external auditory canal of the left ear (see video). The molted exoskeleton of the spider was also present. The tympanic membrane was normal. The spider and exoskeleton were removed with the use of a suction cannula placed through an otoscope. In cases of larger spiders or insects in the external auditory canal, instillation of lidocaine or ethanol is recommended for killing the animal before removal in order to prevent excessive movements and subsequent damage to the structures of the ear. However, liquids should not be introduced into the ear if the tympanic membrane has been perforated. After removal of the spider and exoskeleton, the patient’s symptoms immediately abated.
Case report from the New England Journal of Medicine (video at the link).

26 October 2023

People used to wear hats

Aarhus, 1902.  Colorized and frame rate interpolated.

Rhubarb pie

Via the interestingasfuck subreddit.

Dangerous substances in the trunk of my car

A representative at the Subaru dealership was evaluating my 12-year-old car to assess its trade-in value when he lifted the lid on the trunk floor and found my stash.

I was raised in Minnesota, so I have always kept "survival rations" in my cars.  They came in handy back in the 1970s when I was commuting from the university to a my rural Kentucky home and the car slid on ice off the road into a ditch literally miles from the nearest house on a midwinter night.  IIRC, my survival rations that night was a box of Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes.

The Subaru guy laughed when he saw these, but he reprimanded me (earnestly) for putting my car's integrity at risk.  He had spent decades working in the Service department and had seen numerous instances of rodents chewing their way though vital structures (including brake and fuel lines) in efforts to reach food stored in a car.

My only previous adverse experience with rodents was the discovery of a mouse's nest on top of the engine block in a garaged car.  I've also had problems (still ongoing) with squirrels eating my house and my outdoor Christmas lights.  Readers will likely have similar stories (although TBH all of these amount to "first-world problems.")

See also: "Mice ate my car" at WombatNation.

This is a "whiskey" license plate

These white license tags — known officially as special registration plates — always feature the letter "W" followed by a second letter and a series of numbers. Issued primarily to drivers convicted of driving drunk, they have taken on the nickname "whiskey plates" as whiskey represents the letter "W" in the NATO phonetic alphabet.

Minnesota is one of two states that under certain conditions require DWI offenders to surrender their traditional plates and replace them with whiskey plates — the other is Ohio...

Under Minnesota law, courts are required to order drivers to display whiskey plates if their first DWI offense resulted from having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.16% — twice the legal limit for driving. The special tags are also mandatory for drivers convicted of several DWIs within 10 years, DWI with a child under 16 in the vehicle, or refusing to take a BAC test within 10 years of a DWI conviction.
Details about their issuance, implementation, implications etc in a longread at the StarTribune.

"Columbus" and "After Yang"

I first saw Columbus three or four years ago and gave up on it partway through because it seemed so slow to get to the point.  But this past year I tried again, and was rewarded to discover that it was thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting.  The two young actors are superb in their roles, and the film rates 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.

This video essay addresses the important role of architecture in the film:

If you have agreed with my previous movie recommendations, consider giving this one a try.

Reposted to add the trailer for "After Yang."

After Yang was not on my radar list; I had not seen any reviews of it anywhere, but it was recommended by reader pambamboo in the comments about Columbus. 

The storyline is simple and basic modern sci-fi (and a Sundance Film Festival winner in the sci-fi category).  A biracial couple adopts an infant of Asian descent, and realizing that they will never be able to raise her with a full appreciation of her cultural heritage, they purchase Yang -  a second-hand (refurbished) robot/android/humanoid of Asian phenotype who has been extensively programmed with an immense database of Chinese history, literature, language etc, so that he can be the older brother of the little girl as she grows up.  He eventually malfunctions, and during the repair process it is discovered that he had been implanted with a non-conventional chip that has allowed him to choose moments of his life (lives) to remember.  The movie then ventures into considerations of the meanings of life, humanity, death, memories etc.

The four principal actors in the movie are superb in their roles.  

Like "Columbus," this is a "quiet" movie.  The only "action" sequence is the opening credits scene embedded below.  Both movies are by Kogonada, who was the screenwriter, editor, and director.  These are the only two movies he has created; if he makes any more, I will be first in line to view them.

Here are the opening credits (in which the family is participating in a nationwide live dance competition).

I hope I've convinced somebody to see one or both movies.  I would suggest pairing them up for an intense evening of pleasant viewing; both should be available as DVDs from your local library with probably no waiting list.

20 October 2023

Spotted yesterday

Uncommonly seen in Wisconsin because it is an immigrant from warmer climes to the south, this Common Buckeye greeted me yesterday at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum.   It was keeping the wings horizontal to maximize the solarizing process on a coolish afternoon.  I only see about one or two per year, so this was a pleasant surprise.

Life in a rotating space station

"One Revolution Per Minute follows the space station SSPO Esperanta as it journeys through different parts of the solar system. The Esperanta itself is designed like “a hotel or cruise ship,” according to a note Mr. Wernquist attached to the video. At various points throughout the video, viewers can see a wall of mirrors or a relaxing lounge complete with filled wine glasses."
From commentary at Universe Today, where this other video was recommended:

"Written and narrated by Carl Sagan."

Pregnant in Alabama

From a report in The Guardian:
In March 2021, sheriffs in Etowah county, Alabama, arrested Ashley Caswell on accusations that she’d tested positive for methamphetamine while pregnant and was “endangering” her fetus.

Caswell, who was two months pregnant at the time, became one of a growing number of women imprisoned in the county in the name of protecting their “unborn children”.

But over the next seven months of incarceration for “chemical endangerment” in the Etowah county detention center (ECDC), Caswell was denied regular access to prenatal visits, even as officials were aware her pregnancy was high-risk due to her hypertension and abnormal pap smears, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday against the county and the sheriff’s department. She was also denied her prescribed psychiatric medication and slept on a thin mat on the concrete floor of the detention center for her entire pregnancy.

In October, when her water broke and she pleaded to be taken to a hospital, her lawyer says, officials told her to “sleep it off” and “wait until Monday” to deliver – two days away.

During nearly 12 hours of labor, staff gave her only Tylenol for her pain, the suit says, allegedly telling her to “stop screaming”, to “deal with the pain” and that she was “not in full labor”. Caswell lost amniotic fluid and blood and was alone and standing up in a jail shower when she ultimately delivered her child, according to the complaint and her medical records. She nearly bled to death, her lawyers say...

Data suggests the county is the national leader in arresting women under the guise of protecting their fetuses...  The group logged 649 cases in which women in the state were arrested or faced other criminal consequences in the name of protecting their fetuses or to punish actions that authorities said endangered their pregnancies.

Nope, nope, nope

Screencap of a video in the Satisfying subreddit.  Watch the full 30 seconds to gain some perspective on her overall position.

This location (Pedra de Gavea Rock, Rio) reminds me of Preikestolen in Norway.

19 October 2023

History you don't learn in grade school

An excerpt from Taiwan Prepares to be Invaded

How did we get to this point? The origin story of Taiwan most familiar to Americans begins in 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces, locked for years in a civil war with Mao Zedong’s Communists, were defeated. Along with much of his remaining army, Chiang fled to Taiwan and set up a government-in-exile called the Republic of China. That government was recognized by the United States. But within a few years of Richard Nixon’s 1972 Cold War opening to Beijing, the U.S. formally switched diplomatic recognition to the People’s Republic. Ever since, Taiwan’s status has been cloaked in ambiguity. The U.S. acknowledges Beijing’s claim to Taiwan without recognizing its sovereignty over the island. To help deter a Chinese effort to seize Taiwan by force, the U.S. has pledged to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.

That origin story explains Taiwan’s curious geopolitical status, but it leaves a lot out. When Chiang fled to Taiwan—with roughly 2 million Chinese from the mainland—there were some 6 million people already living on an island that was just emerging from 50 years of Japanese rule. Most of the people living on the island when Chiang arrived could claim roots in Taiwan going back hundreds of years. They had their own languages and culture. So too did the island’s many Indigenous groups, such as the Amis, the Atayal, and the Paiwan. To subjugate the island, Chiang killed and imprisoned tens of thousands over decades—a period known as the White Terror.* He set up a military dictatorship under the leadership of his Chinese nationalist Kuomintang Party (KMT) and, from this offshore platform, vowed to reclaim mainland China.

Taiwan is different now. With its broad boulevards, glass towers, military monuments, narrow side streets, night markets, and ample signs in English, Taipei today presents an ambience of blended cultures: Chinese, Japanese, Western, and distinctly Taiwanese. Bubble tea, a Taiwanese invention, is everywhere. But consider what it was like to grow up in the shadow of Taiwan’s postwar history, and you can better understand the profound ways in which younger generations have been remaking the island’s politics and identity.
What I have learned about world geopolitics as an adult can be expressed like this:
Indigenous peoples always lose.  Always.  Everywhere.

*The White Terror is generally considered to have begun with the declaration of martial law on 19 May 1949... Around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned under harsh treatment during this period, with many either indirectly dying or suffering various health problems in the process. About 3,000 to 4,000 were directly executed for their real or perceived opposition to the KMT's Chiang Kai-shek government

17 October 2023

Iceland viewed from a drone

What an amazing place. And all those hiking trails.  I do wish the videographer had spent more time lingering over some of those locations.  Via Laughing Squid, which I should visit more often.

Not allowed to teach kindergarten

A schoolteacher whose body, face and tongue are covered in tattoos and who has had the whites of his eyes surgically turned black said he was prevented from teaching at a French kindergarten after a parent complained he scared their child.

But the teacher, Sylvain Helaine, 35, still teaches children from the age of six up, and said that, after an initial shock when they see him for the first time, his pupils see past his appearance...

A spokesman for the local education authority said an agreement was reached with Helaine to move him away from teaching kindergarten. Pupils under six “could be frightened by his appearance”, the spokesman said.
Image cropped for size and brightened from the original at CNN.

Unused oil rigs viewed as"highly productive marine environments"

"While not natural structures, their platforms have been embedded into the muddy seabed long enough to become part of the ocean environment, providing a home for creatures like mussels and barnacles, which in turn attract larger fish and sea lions that find safety and food there.

After two and a half decades of studying the rigs, Bull says it’s clear to her: “These places are extremely productive, both for commercial and recreational fisheries and for invertebrates.”..

Now, as California and the US shift away from offshore drilling and toward greener energy, a debate is mounting over their future. On one side are those who argue disused rigs are an environmental blight and should be removed entirely. On the other side are people, many of them scientists, who say we should embrace these accidental oases and that removing the structures is morally wrong. In other parts of the world, oil rigs have successfully become artificial reefs, in a policy known as rigs to reefs...

In 2010, the then governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, began allowing oil companies to turn their platforms into artificial reefs, then donate the cost saved by not having to remove the rigs entirely to a state conservation fund.

For Emily Hazelwood, a marine conservation biologist and offshore energy consultant who consults on rigs to reefs projects, the idea is win-win-win: “The state wins by getting an endowment, the environment wins because the reefs get to stay, and the oil and gas companies also win by saving money.”

But environmental groups don’t see a win. They cite the visual pollution of rigs on the ocean horizon and say that the plan lets fossil fuel companies escape paying for the end of life of their dirty products...

For Love, it simply feels wrong to remove something that’s home to millions of creatures. “It just pisses me off, the hypocrisy of environmental groups who say: yeah, we’re all for biodiversity, except on artificial stuff, and then they can all die,” he says. “It drives me insane.”
Photo cropped for size from the original at The Guardian.

This is NOT a "Banjo Goiter"

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

16 October 2023

Sign on the inside of my home office door

I loved the movie and have kept the sign on my door for many years.

Blogspot has been editing and censoring TYWKIWDBI

It started early last year when Blogspot (a subsidiary (?) of Google and the host for TYWKIWDBI) started notifying me that some of my posts were being censored - not by removal, but by being placed behind a "warning" re the content:

Needless to say, none of the flagged posts were truly NSFW.  I was annoyed by this, but didn't take the time to fight the reclassification.  The one post that I am sorry to see hidden is the one entitled "Banjo Goiter - NOT" because I put a lot of work into that post, both correcting the medical diagnosis and standing up for the dignity of the man.  When I tried to find that post today, it didn't show up on a Google search, and it didn't appear using the search engine in the right sidebar of TYWKIWDBI; I had to find a cross-reference to it in a Banjo discussion forum.  So it still exists - but it's godawful hard to find.

Since I'm ranting about annoyances today, I'll add that Blogspot has also been trying to remove "spam" comments from TYWKIWDBI.  I already do that by hand, but someone at Blogspot decided to run an algorithm to remove old comments, and these are some of the many many comments they flagged for me:

Note that some of these comments were 10-15 years old when they deleted them, and they were removing my own comments from my blog in a desperately misguided attempt at paternalism.  

I wonder if other Blogspot users (Miss Cellania?  Nag on the Lake?  Just a Car Guy?  Jobsanger?  Bulletholes? Skeetmotis?) have experienced the same thing.  It seems to have subsided now, but I do check my spam comments filter regularly.

"What I did on my blogcation" - updated

I'm back at my desk, with my iMac upgraded to Monterey, and ready to resume blogging.  But first I'll revert to my fourth-grade persona in order to report to the class what I did while I was away. (all pix will supersize with a click)

Our house is about 30 years old, with a deck on the north side facing the woods.  I'm not a fan of gravel mulch, but the original builder was correct in using gravel to cover an area that never gets direct sunlight.  The problem is that after a couple decades, organic dirt starts to build up around and under the gravel (on top of the underlying landscape fabric) as a result of the breakdown of grass clippings and unraked autumn leaf litter.  The area is not sunny enough for shrubbery or perennials, but an amazing number of aggressive weeds have been happy to thrive and multiply there.

The standard treatment for weeds is to douse them repeatedly with broad-leaf herbicides, but I have an aversion to the use of Roundup (and pesticides).  Removal of the dirt seemed to be the logical alternative.  After I scraped off the top layer of semi-clean gravel, there was a larger quantity of muddy gravel embedded in the neo-dirt.  I hand-scooped that dirt/gravel mixture into a wheelbarrow, graded the underlying ground to slope away from the house, put down a new layer of lawn fabric, then washed the gravel with a garden hose and replaced it on top of the new lawn fabric.  The result looks good...

... and should be weed-free for many years until the process starts up again. 

This project lasted for parts of four days; while I was doing that, four members of my extended family headed up to Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  Karl, Kirsten, Kaitlyn, and Dean have done this many times and always enjoyed the experience.

They alternated meals of fresh-caught walleye...

... with chicken fajitas...

... and pepperoni pizzas.

They had perfect weather, virtually free of mosquitoes and blackflies, for portaging between lakes to canoe in scenery like this...

... and sleeping under a dark sky with a great view of the cosmos.

So there's that.  On the other hand, I now have the cleanest gravel mulch in my subdivision.  So we'll call it a tie.

Reposted from last year to show the difference in the back patio a year later:

This is viewed from a different angle, but it's obvious how the removal of dirt from the gravel mulch stopped the proliferation of weeds in the area.  I subsequently manually pulled the weeds on the right side; the question is whether I have the energy to repeat the repair process in that area.  Maybe next summer...

The first 1000 digits of pi

Posted for 22/7.  Discussed at RedditReposted from 2014.

Photoshop request fulfilled

Via NeatoramaReposted from 2016.

13 October 2023

Vine snake

Reminds me of Kaa in the 1967 Jungle Book animated movie.  Pic via the natureismetal subreddit.

Should businesses be required to accept cash?

This report from a Florida television station:
A 2022 Pew Research study shows 41% of adults in the U.S. don’t use cash for any of their purchases in a typical week.

Now more and more businesses are requiring people to pay using only their phones, debit or credit cards. It’s a trend that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But state Rep. Joel Rudman, (R) Navarre, wants to make sure cash is still king. He is sponsoring a bill in 2024 that would require Florida businesses to accept cash.

“If someone owes you $10 and they come in with a $10 bill, by God you should take it,” Rudman said... 

Tropicana Field and AMALIE Arena in Tampa are both cashless facilities, something Rudman said he was surprised to see.

“If I have the cash in my wallet to cover the cost of that meal, to cover the cost of that purchase, I expect that business to accept legal tender for all debts public and private,” he said. 

The Federal Reserve said a private business can refuse to accept cash since there isn’t a federal law requiring it. It said states are allowed to pass laws to do so. Miami-Dade County has an ordinance requiring businesses to take cash.

A lethal form of avian flu continues to spread

Excerpts from a Reuters report (image cropped for size):
CHICAGO, Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. poultry producers are tightening safety measures for their flocks as disease experts warn that wild birds are likely spreading a highly lethal form of avian flu across the country.

Indiana on Wednesday reported highly pathogenic bird flu on a commercial turkey farm, leading China, South Korea and Mexico to ban poultry imports from the state...

The disease is already widespread in Europe and affecting Africa, Asia and Canada, but the outbreak in Indiana, which is on a migratory bird pathway, particularly rattled U.S. producers. A devastating U.S. bird-flu outbreak in 2015 killed nearly 50 million birds, mostly turkeys and egg-laying chickens in the Midwest.

The United States is the world's largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat, according to the U.S. government...

Disease experts said a wild bird likely spread the H5N1 virus, which can be transmitted to humans, to Indiana from the East Coast, where officials have confirmed that wild ducks were infected with the strain.

I'm just waiting for QAnon and the crazies to find out about this. 

Avian flu has now been detected in flocks of birds in Virginia and Kentucky, just days after Indiana officials had to euthanize 29,000 turkeys due to the spread of the virus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday. 
Reposted from February of 2022 to add some updates. 

About a month after I wrote the post a report came out about 32,000 turkeys euthanized in North Carolina.  Then 800,000 birds had to be euthanized in South Dakota.

In February of this year, an Atlantic article was entitled "Eagles are Falling, Bears are Going Blind."
The virus has been steadily trickling into mammalian populations—foxes, bears, mink, whales, seals—on both land and sea, fueling fears that humans could be next. Scientists maintain that the risk of sustained spread among people is very low, but each additional detection of the virus in something warm-blooded and furry hints that the virus is improving its ability to infiltrate new hosts...

The epidemic, which first erupted in Europe in the fall of 2021, appears to have crossed the Atlantic into Canada, then zigzagged down into the U.S. around the start of last year. American scientists have detected the virus in more than 150 wild and domestic avian species and at least a dozen different types of mammals. It’s by far the longest and most diverse list of victims the virus has ever claimed on this side of the world...

The neurologic problems can be among the worst: Swans might swim in listless circles; geese might waddle shakily onto shores, their necks twisted and turned; eagles might flap defeatedly from their perches, unable to launch themselves into the air. Michelle Hawkins, a veterinarian at UC Davis, told me that several of the red-tailed hawks she’s treated in her clinic have arrived with their eyes shaking so vigorously from side to side that the spasms turn the animals’ head; others appear to gaze off into nothingness, unresponsive even when humans approach...

Predation or scavenging of sick or dead birds is probably how certain mammals—grizzlies, foxes, opossums, and the like—are catching the virus too...
"Science in Action" - the BBC Science podcast that I listen to every week, featured a segment on how efforts are underway to save the endangered California condors.  Volunteers who helped save the birds from extinction are now having to recapture them and vaccinate them against the avian flu.

This week, a report in The Guardian that 600 arctic tern chicks were found dead at Britain's largest colony, in Northumberland.  There are fears that if migratory birds carry the virus to Antarctica, immense colonies of millions of penguins may be at risk.

Reposted from July because of a report of bird flu arriving in Minnesota:
Minnesota's first major bird flu outbreak of 2023 has struck a Meeker County turkey farm, state officials announced Wednesday.  The flock of 140,000 birds were culled to prevent further spread, and the site has been quarantined... Compared to last year's outbreak, there has been minimal spread nationally so far in 2023.

Two other bird flu outbreaks were reported this month at commercial turkey farms, in South Dakota and Utah, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About 200,000 birds were affected.
The epidemic is not expected to affect turkey prices for this year's Thanksgiving festivities.

Coming soon: Planet Earth III

As with all the David Attenborough/BBC collaborations, this video premium should be viewed full-screen.  I can't get over that leopard's pounce from a tree.

"Smile for the camera" "Oh, wait - never mind..."

Photos via the Nature is Metal subreddit, where there is no useful discussion except for the identification of this as a Yunnan snub-nosed monkey.  Posted as a reminder of the dentition of wild animals.  A quick search didn't reveal for me the survival advantage of a snub-nosed face, especially since it's such a marked contrast to the Proboscis monkeys.

Alabama's fears about "gay" literature

“Read Me a Story, Stella” is a children’s picture book about a pair of siblings reading books together and building a doghouse. However, because the author’s name is Marie-Louise Gay, the book was added to a list of potentially “sexually explicit” books to be moved from the children’s section of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (HCPL) system.

Gay’s book has never been “mistakenly censored,” according to Karen Li, publisher at Groundwood Books, which publishes Gay’s books.

“Although it is obviously laughable that our picture book shows up on their list of censored books simply because the author’s last name is Gay, the ridiculousness of that fact should not detract from the seriousness of the situation,” Li said in a statement.
More discussion at AL.com.   A somewhat-related incident has occurred for TYWKIWDBI.  Blogspot has been censoring my posts.  I'll write about this in a separate post either tonight or tomorrow.

Letter from Peru

Inserted below is an excerpt from an email I received from one of my cousins, who is currently in Peru.  I had emailed him a link to a Washington Post article detailing how Chinese interventions in Laos are embroiling that country in an economic debacle similar to what has happened in recent years as a result of their dealings with Africa.  This was his reply:
"I saw the headline in The Post and decided that I really did not want to read it. Only the latest Chinese foreign aid disaster. Someone in Laos ended up with some money, but the Laotians probably didn’t benefit very much. 
My father used to say that the only type of foreign aid he thought was useful was volunteer assistance. Having lived outside the United States much of my life, I am coming to the same conclusion. It was unusual to meet employees in USAID or the state Department who spoke the local language, understood the local culture or had a passion for their work. In part, the lack of esprit d’corps was due to the US government bureaucracy that sucked the life out of its employees. They came to understand that their goal was to spend their allocation, so they could justify the same amount or more in the next appropriation. 
I am currently in Perú where I have done volunteer work for six years, counting three years during the pandemic in which I was not here. I came to Perú with the Peace Corps as a volunteer in eco-tourism. Keep in mind that I was almost 70 years old, had lived and worked in Colombia, Panamá, and Guatemala outside of the United States. I read, wrote and spoke Spanish. 
Peace Corps Perú sent me to a small community that had almost no appeal for eco-tourists. It took me three months to compile a 50-page document containing enough detailed information about the community and the region to convince the Peace Corps Director in Perú, a very good administrator, by the way, that this particular community and region was not a good assignment. His response upon looking at the document was, “In other words, you did the research that my staff should have done!” He asked me where I thought I should work, and I told him that I should work in a region, not a single community, which was economically depressed, and where there was a high concentration of bird species. He agreed, told me to do the necessary research. Ultimately he assigned me to the region I had chosen. 
I worked for a year, meeting local hotel owners, restaurant owners and guides and explaining that ecotourism could improve the economy and help protect the environment. These people held regional meetings every three months, each with more than a hundred people in attendance. At the end of a year we were on a roll, there was a lot of interest, a lot of participation and the local business leaders signed a petition to the new Peace Corps drafted by the head of national parks asking Peace Corps to extend my assignment for another year. By this time there was a new Peace Corps Director in Perú, and she did not even acknowledge their request. No response whatsoever. I returned to the United States.  Returned Peace Corps volunteers have a saying: "The Peace Corps is a wonderful … disorganization.”
Since then I have returned on my own nickel. I wanted no US government involvement.  In that seven-year period Peru has gone through seven presidents. Corruption is rampant. The current Peruvian government has no credibility - the presidential administration has a 7% approval rating, and the congress has a 10% approval rating. If you were the director of USAID in Colombia, with whom could you work? If you were a Peruvian and had to pay federal income tax, what would be going through your mind? I have come to the conclusion that my dad was probably right. "

I would be delighted to hear responses from readers - especially those with related experiences. 

11 October 2023

Flagellate erythema after eating shiitake mushrooms

This week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine offered this example of "shiitake dermatitis" on the back of a 72-year-old man.  The condition can occur after eating raw or undercooked shiitake mushrooms (there are a few other possible etiologies of patterns like this, discussed at the link, but the history was diagnostic).  

His symptoms were treated with topical steroids and oral antihistamines; the inflammation resolved with some residual hyperpigmentation.  The brief case report does not indicate whether some of the erythema was a dermographia from scratching the pruritis.

Fascinating case.  I've never seen or heard of anything like this before.  You learn something every day.  

10 October 2023

A "phobias workshop"

Laugh out loud funny.

Reposted from 2021.  I wish they could have extended this sketch another five minutes.

Tilted-room sketches by Shaun Micallef

A sketch from The Micallef P(r)ogram(me).  And if you like that one, here's more:

Reposted from 2013 because after checking all the news online, I needed a laugh.

08 October 2023

White grouse

From a gallery of "comedy wildlife photos" at Gizmodo.

Austin City Limits pilot episode, 1974

"The deliberate lack of production slickness plus attention to audio detail pleased even the notoriously TV-shy Nelson. Lead Marketer Ken Waggoner, and Austin City Limits creator Bill Arhos pitched the pilot to PBS as part of its 1975 pledge drive. The show's success as a fundraiser was enough for Arhos to get Austin City Limits green-lighted as a series."
In 1974 I was living just three hours away, in Dallas.  I was already a big Willie Nelson fan, but my job would probably have prevented me from attending this performance, had I known about it.  Glad I can enjoy it vicariously now.

Hotter summers in the northern hemisphere

Res ipsa loquitur.  If you need textual explanation, it's at The New York Times.

High school girl punished for dancing

"A high school senior in Louisiana was stripped of her student government president title and scholarship opportunities after a video circulating on social media showed the 17-year-old girl dancing with friends at a party last week.

Kaylee Timonet, a senior at Walker high school, was seen dancing at a private homecoming afterparty on 30 September, behind a friend who was twerking. Earlier this week, the school principal said he would revoke her leadership role and assistance in scholarship applications.

“They basically told me that I should be ashamed of myself,” Timonet told a local news outlet. “That I wasn’t basically following God’s ideals, which made me cry even more.”...

“I just started crying hysterically,” Timonet said. “I was really, really upset because student government is the best thing that happened to me during high school.”

The mother, who was present at the event, added that the student body paid for the private venue at the Livingston Parish Country Club, as well as for the DJs performance.

They were just having fun,” Timonet’s mother said. “She should not be questioned or spoken about faith at all. It’s a public school, not a private school.”
If anyone finds a GoFundMe link for a college scholarship for this young lady, please let us know.

Addendum:  A hat tip to readers for followup information posted in the comments.

How to impress fans and terrify opponents. Not.

Via Neatorama.

Reposted from 2014 as a reminder of the Minnesota Gophers' performance yesterday against Michigan. 

Food for bears

Biologists estimate about 200 [grizzly] bears each year feast on moths in the eastern portion of the carnivores’ range. Each gram of moth offers bears about eight calories, which means some bears will eat up to 40,000 a day.

A bear could, in about a month’s time, get one-third of the calories they need to build up fat for hibernation at these moth sites,” says Frank van Manen, leader of the interagency grizzly bear study team with the US Geological Survey...

At a time when other food sources, such as whitebark pine nuts and cutthroat trout, have been hit by global heating, disease and invasive species, the army cutworm moth population has remained remarkably stable, making it a critical ingredient in the grizzly bears’ continued recovery in the US...

Researchers believe the army cutworm moth population remains healthy, and because they arrive from many locations as far east as the Missouri River and as far north as the Northwest Territories, no localized issue, such as pesticide use or flooding, can crash their populations..."
The story continues at The Guardian.  I was surprised at the long distances these small moths migrate.

06 October 2023

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" performed on Benjamin Franklin's glass harmonica

A special treat for Christmas eve for the TYWKIWDBI family. The song will be familiar, the instrument not. This is a glass harmonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin. Sounds are produced by placing damp fingers on glass vessels in the same way that one might do at a dinner party; here the vessels continuously rotate, so the fingers can just be touched to the glass.
In Franklin's version, 37 bowls were mounted horizontally nested on an iron spindle. The whole spindle turned by means of a foot-operated treadle. The sound was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note... With the Franklin design it is possible to play ten glasses simultaneously if desired, a technique that is very difficult if not impossible to execute using upright goblets. Franklin also advocated the use of a small amount of powdered chalk on the fingers which helped produce a clear tone in the same way rosin is applied to the bows of string instruments.
Before you listen to the music, please note this cautionary bit:
The instrument's popularity did not last far beyond the 18th century. Some claim this was due to strange rumors that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad... One example of fear from playing the glass harmonica was noted by a German musicologist Friedrich Rochlitz in Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung where it is stated that "the armonica excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood that is apt method for slow self-annihilation.

Reposted from 2008 (!) to add this performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor:

Crank up the sound when you watch this; share it with someone else in the room.

Today (10/6) is Mad Hatter Day

Explained here:
Mad Hatter Day is 10/6. The date was chosen from the illustrations by John Tenniel in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wherein the Mad Hatter is always seen wearing a hat bearing a slip of paper with the notation "In this style 10/6". We take this as inspiration to behave in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (which is October 6 here, although in Britain Mad  Hatter Day occurs on June 10...but I digress...)

Mad Hatter Day began in Boulder, CO, in 1986, among some computer folk who had nothing better to do. It was immediately recognized as valuable because they caused less damage than if they'd been doing their jobs.
As I searched this topic on the 'net today, it was interesting to see how many observers misinterpret the 10/6 on his hat as being either a style number ("The Mad Hatter’s top hat, according to Lewis Carroll, was of the 10/6 style") or worse ("my birthdate (10/6) is on his hat although I think that is his hat size!"). The correct interpretation, of course, is that "the paper in the Mad Hatter's Hat was really an order to make a hat in the style shown, to cost ten shillings sixpence."


03 October 2023

An updated, revised, hyperencabulator video

I posted the original encabulator video in 2011.  The Rockwell Retro Encabulator was posted several years ago.  Now this new version.  If you have difficulty following the text, try turning on subtitles.

02 October 2023

"Dad, I raked the leaves"

Two examples of creative reimagining of an autumn chore.  Credit to Nikola Faller, via Kottke [third example at the link].

The trauma of school "shooter drills"

 "... nurses are telling us that they are walking away from situations where there are hyperrealistic active-shooter drills, and they themselves are traumatized by the experience. And they are watching the children be traumatized by the experience. They are telling us that they see preschool-age children go home and tell their parents that there was a shooter at school today. And they are telling us, in some situations, that they feel a gun-violence incident at their school, if it hasn’t already happened yet, feels inevitable. There is a lot of concern about the long-term and harmful psychological effects of hyperrealistic active-shooter drills, and that they are, in many instances, likely to be much more harmful in the long term than helpful in any kind of realistic scenario. And I think we need to understand what works before we widely implement something without understanding the long-term consequences...

So last year, there were 305 different shootings at a school. Two of them were deliberate attacks. The other 303 were a time when a gun was fired, and in that moment, students hear gunshots, teachers hear gunshots, the school goes into lockdown usually for hours, for 3, 4, 5, 6 hours. And because everyone heard that gunshot, they think that it is the real thing. They’re texting their parents, “I love you, goodbye.” But in reality, what we can see from data is that the most common situation to happen at a school is a fight that escalates.

There are more teenagers carrying weapons than there have been at previous points in history, and when there’s a conflict, these conflicts are turning into shootings. And the shooter almost always runs immediately, so there’s no threat at the school anymore. But we only have one plan for when a shot is fired, and that’s lockdown. On the other end, when there is a deliberate attack — there have been 230 of those since 1966 — they don’t all happen in the classroom."
The discussion continues at The New England Journal of Medicine (not behind a paywall).

Last school year, news reports identified more than 1,150 guns brought to K-12 campuses but seized before anyone fired them, according to an investigation by The Washington Post. That’s more than six guns each day, on average...

Littoral stress

Sunbathers on the beach at Rio de Janeiro.  From a gallery at The Atlantic. [credit Tercio Teixeira / AFP / Getty]

"Constitutional sheriffs"

"The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has nine Minnesota events planned in October. They’ll be led by Sheriff Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is also a founder of an extremist group that played a role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

Mack gained notoriety after he was part of a lawsuit that successfully overturned a provision of the Brady Law in the 1990s.

Since then, Mack founded the constitutional sheriffs group and has traveled the country, recruiting law enforcement officers — particularly sheriffs and deputies — to join his movement. Their central tenet, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, is that the county sheriff is the ultimate legal authority and can refuse to enforce any law they consider unconstitutional. This idea has no basis in law and aligns with so-called sovereign citizens , an anti-government extremist movement that believes they are sovereign from the U.S.
The Oath Keepers recruit law enforcement and have gotten more media attention, but the constitutional sheriffs group has “arguably had more success infiltrating law enforcement,” according to the ADL. 

Mack’s group believes county sheriffs’ powers exceed those of any other authorities when they’re protecting Americans from foreign or domestic enemies. Mack has claimed sheriffs have the power to call out the militia to support them — the same logic employed by the Posse Comitatus, which the ADL calls a loosely organized, far-right, violent anti-government group that sprang out of the West Coast around 1970, peaked in the early 1980s and evolved into the sovereign citizen movement. 

The Posse Comitatus also believed county government reigned supreme and sheriffs could nullify laws. One of their members, Gordon Kahl, was involved in two fatal shootouts with law enforcement in 1983, one in North Dakota and later in Arkansas, where he was killed.

Mack refers to his supporters as his posse.

The constitutional sheriffs’ group has honored as a “sheriff of the year” Wisconsin sheriff David Clarke, Jr., who described Black Lives Matter as a hate group and claimed they would join with the terrorist group ISIS to destroy American society. 
More at the link.

01 October 2023

President Jimmy Carter

The 39th president of the United States lives modestly, a sharp contrast to his successors, who have left the White House to embrace power of another kind: wealth.  Even those who didn’t start out rich, including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have made tens of millions of dollars on the private-sector opportunities that flow so easily to ex-presidents...

The Democratic former president decided not to join corporate boards or give speeches for big money because, he says, he didn’t want to “capitalize financially on being in the White House.”

Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that Gerald Ford, Carter’s predecessor and close friend, was the first to fully take advantage of those high-paid post-presidential opportunities, but that “Carter did the opposite.”

Since Ford, other former presidents, and sometimes their spouses, routinely earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says over dinner. “It just never had been my ambition to be rich.”..

Carter decided that his income would come from writing, and he has written 33 books, about his life and career, his faith, Middle East peace, women’s rights, aging, fishing, woodworking, even a children’s book written with his daughter, Amy Carter, called “The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer.”

With book income and the $210,700 annual pension all former presidents receive, the Carters live comfortably. But his books have never fetched the massive sums commanded by more recent presidents...

Ex-presidents often fly on private jets, sometimes lent by wealthy friends, but the Carters fly commercial. Stuckey says that on a recent flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles, Carter walked up and down the aisle greeting other passengers and taking selfies...

That no-frills sensibility, endearing since he left Washington, didn’t work as well in the White House. Many people thought Carter scrubbed some of the luster off the presidency by carrying his own suitcases onto Air Force One and refusing to have “Hail to the Chief” played...

When Carter looks back at his presidency, he says he is most proud of “keeping the peace and supporting human rights,” the Camp David accords that brokered peace between Israel and Egypt, and his work to normalize relations with China. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

“I always told the truth,” he says.

Carter has been notably quiet about President Trump. But on this night, two years into Trump’s term, he’s not holding back.

“I think he’s a disaster,” Carter says. “In human rights and taking care of people and treating people equal.”..

They watch Atlanta Braves games or “Law and Order.” Carter just finished reading “The Innovators” by Walter Isaacson. They have no chef and they cook for themselves, often together. They make their own yogurt.

On this summer morning, Rosalynn mixes pancake batter and sprinkles in blueberries grown on their land. Carter cooks them on the griddle.
Then he does the dishes.
I highly recommend reading the full story at the Washington Post.  His life and his personal principles offer such a stark contrast to current and recent presidents.  Here's one final excerpt about his home:
...a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside.
Photo credit Library of Congress, via CNBC.

Reposted from 2018 to add this photo of Jimmy Carter at his 96th birthday party several months ago:

He was too frail to attend the inauguration today, but was fondly remembered by several commentators (and me).

Via the Pics subreddit, where there is an affectionate comment thread.

Reposted from 2021 to celebrate President Carter's 99th birthday.  He is currently receiving hospice care.  Happy birthday, Mr. President.
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