18 June 2013
"Rat kings are cryptozoological phenomena said to arise when a number of rats become intertwined at their tails, which become stuck together with blood, dirt, and excrement. The animals consequently grow together while joined at the tails, which are often broken. The phenomenon is particularly associated with Germany, where the majority of instances have been reported...Image and text from Wikipedia. Credit to Neatorama.
Most researchers presume the creatures are legendary and that all supposed physical evidence is hoaxed, such as mummified groups of dead rats with their tails tied together. Reports of living specimens remain unsubstantiated…
Specimens of purported rat kings are kept in some museums. The museum Mauritianum in Altenburg (Thuringia) shows the largest well-known mummified "rat king", which was found in 1828 in a miller's fireplace at Buchheim [above]. It consists of 32 rats. Alcohol-preserved rat kings are shown in museums in Hamburg, Hamelin, Göttingen, and Stuttgart. A rat king found in 1930 in New Zealand, displayed in the Otago Museum in Dunedin, was composed of immature Rattus rattus whose tails were entangled by horse hair.
The term rat king has often led to the misconception of a king of rats... The Nutcracker, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, adapts a tale by E. T. A. Hoffmann that features a seven-headed Mouse King as the villain..."
Addendum: Reposted to add this example of a "squirrel king" -
The Animal Clinic of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada, got a surprise this week when a city worker brought in six squirrels fused together by their tails...
This particular group of six were nesting near a pine tree and sap fused their tails together. A city of Regina worker found the young squirrels and brought them to the clinic. The animals were sedated and the veterinarian team worked to untangle the mess of tails. Their tails were then shaved of the matted fur and they were given antibiotics to prevent infection. (Via Nothing to do with Arbroath)
Addendum: Reposted in order to add this related interesting phenomenon found by my wife at the Buck Manager website:
[T]hese three white-tailed bucks were found locked during the rut. The bucks were located on a ranch in east-central Texas and, from the information that I received, one of the bucks was still alive when the trio was found. Apparently, the antlers were cut from the dead deer and one very tired buck was lucky enough to run back off into the woods.
Here are some of the questions he answered:
Can analysts listen to content of domestic calls without a warrant?His replies to these and other questions is at The Guardian and Reddit.
Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this: I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email. Do you stand by that, and if so, could you elaborate?
Regarding whether you have secretly given classified information to the Chinese government, some are saying you didn't answer clearly - can you give a flat no?
It took a total of seven hours of setup and five tries, but at around 11 p.m. Friday, May 31, The Seattle Public Library set the world’s record for the longest book domino chain.2,131 books - although it seems like more in the video. Via Neatorama.
The NFL announced a change to its bag policy Thursday and beginning with the 2013 season, only clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags will be permitted inside NFL stadiums. Under the new policy, fans will be allowed to bring one bag into stadiums and that bag must be clear and not exceed 12 inches by six inches by 12 inches...
Here's a list of items from the NFL that you will not be allowed to bring into stadiums: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, seat cushions, luggage of any kind, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size.Discussed at Reddit, including "Kind of nice for those of us who travel to stadiums by public transportation. Let me just flash everyone on the bus everything I am carrying, including my wallet and phone."
16 June 2013
In Russia someone built an outhouse/loo on top of the opening of an abandoned mineshaft. Intrepid explorers found that adit and explored it, discovering an icicle-decorated mine beneath (dozens of photos at the link).
Who invented the "high five" victory slap currently so common in many sports? It dates back to the 1970s.
If your travels take you to or through South Dakota, you can visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.
An interesting article in the Los Angeles Times describes what it's like to be an agricultural field worker: "Americans don't want to do the fieldwork. They'll go over and make hamburgers for $8 an hour with no insurance, no nothing, when they can make more money here," Teixeira said. "I don't care if you pay $20 an hour, they'll come here one or two days, and they're gone. It's a mind-set: They think fieldwork is below them."
More before-and-after faces of meth.
The officer in charge of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention program has been arrested for alleged sexual assault.
The dark side of home schooling." The Christian home school subculture isn't a children-first movement. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ideology-first movement. There is a massive, well-oiled machine of ideology that is churning out soldiers for the culture war."
Not that it would ever happen, but just in case: "do not talk to the FBI without your lawyer present. If Harvey’s decades long experience is any indication, chances are that the agents will politely decline to interview you if you and your attorney insist on creating an accurate record of an FBI interrogation."
A man describes what it was like to be swallowed by a hippopotamus: " It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf. I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo's snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.
A list of people who have won Academy, Emmy, Grammy AND Tony awards. It's a short list with only 11 names. (Who would have thought John Gielgud won a Grammy?)
The superprivileged, pampered world of air travel for congressmen: "At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, they have their own special parking spaces—right up close to the terminal—that they don’t even have to pay for. As Bloomberg Television’s Hans Nichols reports, this perk costs the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority $738,760 in foregone revenue... The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights, so that if they are late or their flight is canceled, they’re guaranteed a spot on the next one." And more. Remember, they don't live in the same world you live in.
Closed-captioning glasses allow people who are deaf or hearing-impaired to enjoy movies in theaters. "They also come with audio tracks that describe the action on the screen for blind people."
There is a subreddit that collects chemical reaction gifs. Put on your safety glasses before clicking.
After the Great French Wine Blight in the nineteenth century, the French wine industry was saved when surviving varieties were grafted onto rootstock from America.
The U.S. Golf Association has officially banned using a long putter anchored to the body (effective January 1, 2016).
Lobsters show no signs of aging. If they get enough food and avoid parasites (and humans) they can theoretically live forever (and keep getting bigger as they continue to molt).
The health benefits of running may not apply to long-distance running. "recent studies suggest the significant mortality benefits of running may diminish or disappear at mileage exceeding 30 miles a week and other, very small studies have shown elevated levels of coronary plaque in serial marathoners—a problem that rigorous exercise theoretically could cause."
In 1942 a British forest guard in Roopkund, India made an alarming discovery. Some 16,000 feet above sea level, at the bottom of a small valley, was a frozen lake absolutely full of skeletons. All the bodies dated from 850 A.D. - and they may have been killed by a hailstorm. Details at Atlas Obscura.
"Police arrested a Disneyland employee on suspicion of putting a so-called dry ice bomb in a theme park trash can where it exploded."
"Cli-fi" refers to "climate fiction"- a sub-genre of sci-fi.
"Former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on the US government’s use of torture under the Bush administration, is currently serving a 30 month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania." One of his letters to his attorney, published at The Dissenter, describes his life in a Federal prison, including an incident when prison officials tried to initiate a conflict between him an a Muslim prisoner.
Authorities stopped two speedboats carrying cocaine worth $500 million to the United States.
The Telegraph has a video of a flying electric bicycle (invented in the Czech Republic).
Photo: There are many ways to mark the onset of summer. At our house one of the metrics is the first appearance of eggs of the Monarch butterfly under the leaves of the milkweed in our garden. These four eggs were harvested on June 1, and the little caterpillars are growing nicely. Followup later...
14 June 2013
This week I listened to the
the audio version of BBC Radio's original production an audiobook adaptation of Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
A brief glance at a dictionary confirmed that for 40+ years I've been mispronouncing that word in my head when reading it, starting with Faulkner:
Citations via Verbal Workout.
Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in memory of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qualactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heady odors of the dark Qualactin Zones, subtle, sweet, and mystic.At that point I had to back up the CD and relisten, because the word "redolent" had definitely been pronounced RED-elent, rather than reDOLEnt.
A brief glance at a dictionary confirmed that for 40+ years I've been mispronouncing that word in my head when reading it, starting with Faulkner:
The clean, spartan room was redolent of Sunday. William Faulkner, Light in AugustAnd on and on...
The air was redolent with the odor of flowers; the nose was constantly amazed by it. Stephen King, Carrie.The BBC production was narrated by Stephen Fry. Lesson for the day: if you think you've caught Stephen Fry in an English language mistake, you're probably wrong. You learn something every day.
M. Bouc`s tone was redolent of heartfelt disgust. Agatha Christie, Murder On The Orient Express.
The pale green buds were sticky with resin and redolent of rotting fruit. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air.
A furry redolence of cinnamon arose from the sack, wafted across Jessica. Frank Herbert, Dune.
Florentino Ariza was looking after his guests in the main salon of the ship, still redolent of fresh paint and tar, when there was a burst of applause on the docks, and the band struck up a triumphal march. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Citations via Verbal Workout.
Labels: English language
Today's Guardian Film Blog has an entertaining post about the cinematic epidemic of people being sucked out of airplanes.
Next week sees the release of the much-anticipated zombie-pocalypse thriller World War Z, in which Brad Pitt's flight is rudely interrupted by a) a horde of ravenous zombies, and b) a hole in the plane's fuselage, flushing passengers and their luggage out into icy air. What terrible luck! And just two weeks after that nice Will Smith was sucked from his son through a hole in the fuselage of his spacecraft in After Earth. And that terrifying sight followed hot on the heels of Iron Man 3, which featured one of Iron Man's fancier rescues, as he scooped up 13 passengers sucked through a hole in the fuselage of their jet as it made its way across the Pacific...The post notes that the physics of fuselage breaches do not support Hollywood's renditions of the events.
Experts will doubtless debate long and hard as to whether this year's crop of films about people getting sucked from planes beats the last such bumper year, 1993, in which no less than three movies – Cliffhanger, Alive, and Fearless – preyed on the public's fears of a ruptured fuselage...
Then there is the grand-daddy of all decompression scenes: the death of Auric Goldfinger in the 1964 Bond classic of that name, zipping around the cabin like a burst balloon before being sucked out the hole created in the window by his .45 caliber... Many a villain has followed in the slipstream of Oddjob's booming buttocks, including the baby alien at the end of Alien 4: Resurrection and the eponymous snakes in David Rellis's 2006 masterwork, Snakes on a Plane.
Labels: Video - movies
Excerpts from an op-ed post at The Dish, presumably authored by Sullivan:
This was a president elected to get us out of conflict in the Middle East, not to enmesh us even further in a cycle of sectarian conflict and metastasizing warfare. This was a president who said he didn’t oppose all wars, just dumb ones. Is there a conceivably dumber war to intervene in than Syria’s current civil one? I can’t see one.
You can forgive a president once – even though his misguided, counter-productive and destabilizing war in Libya was almost as nuts as this latest foray. But by deciding to arm the Sunni radicals fighting the Shiites in Syria and Lebanon, the president has caved to the usual establishment subjects who still want to run or control the entire world. I don’t buy the small arms qualifier. You know that’s the foot in the door to dragging the United States into the middle of a civil war we do not understand and cannot control. If it has any effect, it will be to draw out the conflict still longer and kill more people. More staggeringly, he is planning to put arms into the hands of forces that are increasingly indistinguishable from hardcore Jihadists and al Qaeda – another brutal betrayal of this country’s interests, and his core campaign promise not to start dumb wars. Yep: he is intending to provide arms to elements close to al Qaeda. This isn’t just unwise; it’s close to insane...
I am asking what on earth is the American national interest in taking sides militarily? I see precisely none. Do we really want to hand over Syria’s chemical arsenal to al Qaeda? Do we really want to pour fuel on the brushfire in the sectarian bloodbath in the larger Middle East? And can you imagine the anger and bitterness against the US that this will entail regardless? We are not just in danger of arming al Qaeda, we are painting a bulls-eye on every city in this country, for some party in that religious struggle to target.
I understand why the Saudis and Jordanians, Sunni bigots and theocrats, want to leverage us into their own sectarian warfare against the Shiites and Alawites. But why should America take sides in such an ancient sectarian conflict? What interest do we possibly have in who wins a Sunni-Shiite war in Arabia?
13 June 2013
The slogan 'Our Heroes are Back' is used to announce that, after an absence of one decade, all major pieces in the Rijksmuseum's collection are back where they belong. (The Flashmob recreates Rembrandt's Night Watch). (p.s. - high res - good for fullscreen viewing)
I had an opportunity during my blogcation to engage in my favorite recreational activity - exploring the woods in northern Minnesota. This time, however, the pleasure was
Not to mention the ticks...
This big fellow is a (relatively) harmless wood tick, of which I accumulated a half dozen, but I was also discovered by a tiny nymph of what may have been a dreaded deer tick.
The reward at this time of year is an abundance of new growth and the presence of the spring ephemerals, especially trillium -
which in some locations virtually carpets the forest floor -
I've often wondered what pollinates these deep-woods flowers. There are not many butterflies deep in shady woods, although I did encounter this tiger swallowtail along a sandy path -
At this latitude (Cass County, about even with Duluth), this is probably a Canadian Tiger (I have difficulty distinguishing them from Eastern Tigers). But they need solar power, and only cruise roadsides, clearings and open meadows, not the deep woods (except at the treetop level). I suspect the trillium are pollinated by solitary bees or perhaps moths; they probably wouldn't rely on wind in such a heavily vegetated ecosystem.
The mosquitos finally won the day, driving me from the thick woods to the relative safety of one of the many bike trails -
- that crisscross the area, where spring breezes kept the mosquitos away.
WHEN I see birches bend to left and right
Across the line of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches;Here's a photo for those not familar with the effects of ice storms on birch trees -
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."
- and a video of young boys swinging from birches (effectively ends at 1:40):
Frost video via The Dish. Boldface and spaces in text added for clarity and emphasis.
08 June 2013
To get rid of an earworm, select a task that uses your active memory. “Something we can do automatically like driving or walking means you are not using all of your cognitive resource, so there is plenty of space left for that internal jukebox to start playing... Verbal tasks like solving anagrams or reading a good novel seem to be very good at keeping earworms out."
You can now view a 4 billion pixel panoramic image of Mars taken by the Curiosity rover.
A gallery of scleral (eyeball) tattoos is not for the faint of heart.
Three hundred members of a German (flea) circus froze to death.
Britain's youngest grandparents are 29 years old.
How to enjoy America's national parks without strenuous hiking.
Examples of video shot with "a digital 3-axis gyro-stabilized handheld camera gimbal. The completely silent device weighs under 3.5 pounds bare and can be operated solo, or with the help of a second "gimbal" operator."
The Atlantic has a set of portraits of Jahrhundertmensch (centenarians).
A video explains how to make blueberry pancakes in which the blueberries are embedded and properly distributed.
"A transgender woman in South Florida faces charges of practicing cosmetic surgery without a license, after police say she injected an unwitting patient’s buttocks with a handful of unsafe substances, including tire mender Fix-A-Flat..."
Thermostatic mixing valves incorporated into bath tub faucets prevents scalding water (>120 degrees) from entering the bath. These are now required by the Minnesota Plumbing Code.
Details about the recent discovery of thousands of Roman artifacts in London: 700 boxes of pottery fragments, 100 fragments of writing tablets, the largest quantity of Roman leather ever to have been found in the capital.
Re the Beatles' song "Get Back" - "Better known as a playful take on counterculture, starring the gender-bending Sweet Loretta Martin and the grass-smoking Jo-Jo, the song originally dealt with South Asian immigration to the United Kingdom... An early version of the song, known to bootleggers as “No Pakistanis,” began with Paul McCartney muttering, “Don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs.”
A glossary of English language idioms derived from baseball.
"Green Dragon" is a nitrous-powered, marijuana-infused liquor. "...alcohol absorbs through the digestive tract in a faster, much more predictable way than solid edibles--and so does whatever's dissolved in that alcohol. Hence the precision-infused Green Dragon." On a related matter, a medical marijuana-hating assemblyman caught with marijuana gets charges dismissed.
23 photos of "unbelievable places."
Children as young as 10 years old are regularly sexting. "One schoolteacher questioned said pupils are so pressured into sending naked photos to each other that they trawl the internet looking at child pornography to find suitable images. Ms Barry said: "I was gobsmacked when I asked a class of 13-year-olds if they had ever sent naked pictures of themselves and not a single hand did not go up. "What is most worrying is the fact young people do not identify this as a problem. For them it is part and parcel of school life.
Results of the 2013 Webby Awards.