22 February 2018

Salzburg, Austria, 1929


There's so much detail to savor in this photograph from National Geographic.  The hats draw one's initial attention, but look at the elaborately designed clothing and accessorizing.  Some reader may be able to offer more insight into whether this fashion was local tradition or more widespread in the era.

Technically correct


The manufacturer can always fall back on the argument that the plastic cover for the hose nozzle was "made in America" even though the nozzle wasn't.  Discussion thread of this shady practice here.

"Dog's breakfast" explained

Last weekend at a local auction the auctioneer started to enumerate the contents of a lot, then stopped and said it was a real "dog's breakfast."  It's a British phrase (he was Canadian), and the meaning was obvious, but I couldn't parse out the derivation.  I found this in a 25-year-old New York Times On Language column:
"A dog's breakfast is any kind of smorgasbord prepared, in haste or at random, from life's castoffs... The slang lexicographer Eric Partridge cited Glasgow circa 1934 as its place and time of origin, though he noted that Australians also used the phrase with the same meaning as "confusion, mess, turmoil."

About the same time, a dog's dinner appeared with a quite different sense. "Why have you got those roses in your hair?" asked a character in "Touch Wood," a 1934 novel by C. L. Anthony. "You look like the dog's dinner ." This expression was defined by the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement as "dressed or arranged in an ostentatiously smart or flashy manner," probably derived from the 1871 usage "to put on the dog ." 
The derivation summarized:  "Although the origin isn’t exactly known, it alludes to the fact that if what you don’t succeed at what you are cooking, then the results are only fit for a dog... It is suggested that this dates from a time before canned dog food when a pup’s breakfast would have consisted of dinner leftovers from the night before; hence, “a mess.”

And then there's "dog's bollocks," used to connote absolute excellence.

Cartoon credit here.

A better way to stripe a parking garage


Parking garages - especially underground ones - are famously ill-lit and the stripes on the pavement seldom repainted.  I applaud this simple vertical extension, posted at the Mildly Interesting subreddit,

"Trash Girl" owns the insult applied to her by haters


The term "owning" something is a common modern catchword.  Everyone is urged to "take ownership" of their lives, employees are urged to "take ownership" of their work, persons with illnesses are advised to "own" the symptoms.  What's often not clear is what that means, or how one achieves the desired result.

Here's a good example of taking ownership:
... 12-year-old Nadia Sparkes decided to take matters into her own hands. The high schooler has been picking up trash along the two-mile route from her school to her home for months now, using the basket of her bike to bring the trash home. In just the short amount of time that she has been picking up trash, Nadia has already accumulated more than two recycling bins worth of plastic.

Despite her green intentions, some of the kids at Nadia’s school have dubbed her “Trash Girl” and have bullied her for her noble efforts to help the planet. It would be easy to succumb to mean comments and stop picking up trash, but on the contrary, Nadia is more determined than ever to clean up her community...

“I told her she had two choices, she could either stop collecting rubbish, stop drawing their attention and hopefully they would leave her alone. Or she could own “trash girl,” Paula Sparkes, Nadia’s mom, said about the bullies.

As a result of the media attention Nadia has received, she now has created a Facebook group aptly named “Team Trash Girl” where she shares updates on her efforts. Positive comments have poured in, all in support of Nadia, advocating for her to ignore the negative.
It was reading that story yesterday that prompted me to respond as I did to the egregiously vituperative comment posted on TYWKIWDBI.  Disagreement and a variety of opinions are unavoidable and perhaps essential, but hatred and bullying have no place in civil society.  One way to cope with those tactics is to own the insult.

21 February 2018

A comment left on the blog


I had to look up the meaning of "ass clown."  Found a detailed discussion of it at Slate:
As a swear, assclown is a newer member of that noble ass- family, sibling to assbag, assbucket, asshat, asshole, asswipe and any number of other ass + NOUN compounds. These formations variously ridicule someone as laughably and contemptibly idiotic, dickish, or worthless. Assclown, however, is a pejorative pie thrown especially in the face of someone who, wrongly, thinks his actions are clever, funny, or worthwhile...

Assclown has also been at the center of political controversy. In 2015, Minnesota sports producer Kevin Cusick had to apologize after suggesting President Obama was an assclown. Cusick put together a slideshow for the St. Paul Pioneer Press online that featured President Obama wielding a selfie stick. He captioned the image, used for larger social commentary on taking selfies as such: “A fool-proof way to make yourself look like a self-absorbed assclown.” ..
And thanks to this presidential election, philosopher Aaron James released Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump, a timely update to his 2012 Assholes: A Theory...

Where does Trump fit in? His type is the Assclown Showman Asshole, with a bit of the Bullshitter and Winner mixed in. And for James, the assclown is specifically “someone who seeks an audience’s enjoyment while being slow to understand how it views him.” When it comes to Trump, that sounds pretty accurate, but I’m certain we can all conjure up some far stronger words.
The comment was left on the Divertimento because I had closed comments on the President's Day post

18 February 2018

Divertimento #146


So, you pay a helicopter pilot to carry you to the top of a mountain.  Your ski hits a rock.  Then this happens...

Granny flats and zoning regulations.

Google can create panorama photos for you.  They don't always come out right.

In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy hides his hammer in the book of... Exodus.

Arctic musk oxen succumb to an ice tsunami.

When asked about its color, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.”

If you encrypt personal photos before storing them in the Cloud, you should know that there are programs that allow them to be unencrypted by other people.

"A 15-year-old gained access to plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran by pretending to be the head of the CIA to gain access to his computers."

A gallery of photos along Norway's Highway 69.

A meme generator for "Pepperidge Farm Remembers."

The Doomsday rule can determine the day of the week for any date in history.  In case you want to know if the Battle of Hastings was fought on a weekend.


"Just days after the House passed its version of the federal tax law slashing corporate tax rates, House Speaker Paul Ryan collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from billionaire energy mogul Charles Koch and his wife, according to a recent campaign donor report."  The Koch companies, in turn, will receive billions of dollars in tax relief.  They would like you to understand that all of this money will eventually trickle down to you.

Video of a farrier trimming the hooves of a draft horse.

"A US appeals court debated whether or not a monkey can own the copyright to a selfie..."

A compilation of bloopers from a televised fishing program.

IKEA furniture is built with cardboard (inside the particle board).  "They use the particle board for the parts that need to hold screws."

The best "icebreaker questions" for starting a new relationship: #1: What was your first job? #2: Have you ever met anyone famous? #3: Do you read TYWKIWDBI? #24: Do you collect anything?...

In a high-rise building, don't overfill a tub or pool on a windy day.

Copper isn't magnetic.  But it affects magnets.

"Parents are making their children drink industrial bleach to “cure” them of autism, with the potentially deadly practice traced back to a cult in the United States."

The National Security Agency has removed "honesty" from the core values listed on its website.


A "porch bandit" steals a package.  "On her way back to the car, she trips and falls. She can't get up. It looks like she broke her leg, because her foot is at a weird angle."

What ever happened to those kids who used to knock on people's doors and then run away before anyone could answer?  They got jobs.

"According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median four-year cost to attend public medical school exceeds $240,000."

"Over the past four years, some members of [Baltimore's] Gun Trace Task Force stole more than $300,000, at least three kilos of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin and hundreds of thousands of dollars in watches from suspected drug dealers and civilians, according to officers’ plea agreements and statements in federal court. They admit to putting illegal trackers on the cars of suspected dealers so they could rob their homes and sell off any drugs and guns they found."

Cellphone in a 1919 cartoon.

"Chickens raised in India for food have been dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine, in practices that could have repercussions throughout the world. Hundreds of tonnes of an “antibiotic of last resort” – only used in the most extreme cases of sickness - are shipped to India each year to be used, without medical supervision, on animals that may not require the drugs but are being dosed with them nevertheless to promote the growth of healthy animals."  For fox ache.

A tree that weighs several tons will not be held in place by a rope when you cut it down.

The famed Nazca lines were damaged this month "when a trucker intentionally drove his tractor-trailer off a roadway that runs through the protected historic area..."

Scandinavians are no longer the world's best non-native English speakers.  That title has recently been gained by the Dutch.

A graph depicting a child's age vs. his/her willingness to help.

"Dye from the cochineal bug was ten times as potent as St John’s Blood and produced 30 times more dye per ounce than Armenian red, according to Butler. So when European dyers began to experiment with the pigment, they were delighted by its potential. Most importantly, it was the brightest and most saturated red they had ever seen. By the middle of the 16th Century it was being used across Europe, and by the 1570s it had become one of the most profitable trades in Europe..."

A discussion thread about bringing your own food into movie theaters.

Young boy watches little girl tumble, imitates her.


The photos embedded in today's linkdump come from a gallery posted at HistoryDaily, depicting rural librarians of the 1930s.  "In Kentucky, they had isolated mountain communities which could only get their books and reading material from one source… librarians on horseback." (via BoingBoing)

16 February 2018

The letter "D" (by Erte)

"He imagined that each letter was a character possessing the unique personality of a stage performer, a body made pliable by years of dance training and a style all their own. Some – such as “X”, with his black gimp mask, scarlet boots and thong, or “K”, bound to a Grecian column by a string of pearls and wearing only stockings – are explicitly erotic. Others, such as “T” and “C”, look like charmingly fanciful nymphs from “Fantasia”, a Disney film. “D” belongs to a third category. The bow and crescent moon evoke Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, but Erté, of course, added glamorous new ingredients: blue, star-spangled skin and sinuous curves reminiscent of the women in Persian miniatures he so admired."
More about Erte at Wikipedia.

Image and text from an article about Erte at The Economist.

Look how big the Titanic was



(It's the one in front in this composite with a modern cruise ship) (via)

Skating on Lake Baikal


 "I tell them, 'Pick up your litter.  Tidy up after yourselves.  Don't leave litter.  It all ends up in Baikal.'"

Skating on thin ice creates unusual sounds


Apart from the cracking sounds, there are also "boing-boing" sounds similar to the sound effects from Star Wars movies.  Those are created by a phenomenon called acoustic dispersion (more info via links at Neatorama).

Girls are now reaching puberty before age 10 - updated


And that's an average age of puberty - not an outlying limit for precocious individuals:
Scientists have found that the average age that breast development begins is now nine years and 10 months – almost a year earlier than a previous study in 1991.

They have yet to discover the reason behind the phenomenon but believe it could be linked to unhealthy lifestyles or exposure to chemicals in food.

The study was carried out in Denmark in 2006, the latest year for which figures were available, but experts believe the trend applies to Britain.

Data from America also points to the earlier onset of puberty.
In the nineteenth century the average age of onset of puberty in females was 15.  By the 1960s it was about 12.  Now it's under 10.

Lots of implications, some of them discussed a different article in The Telegraph:
These girls are towering over boys of their own age because, for girls, the growth spurt and development of breasts come first; periods come later. With boys, it is the other way round: their genitalia and sweaty armpits develop before their height shoots up. The last stage of the maturing process, when they are finally able to signal their manliness, comes when their voices break.

All these markers have been occurring steadily earlier for both boys and girls, but recent changes have been dramatic. In the 18th century, when Bach was directing the Leipzig choir, the average age at which a boy’s voice broke was 18. Choirmasters now have trouble finding trebles over the age of 13 or 14...

Parents, too, should be careful not to treat them as teenagers. “They need to look at their emotional, not their physical, development.
Photo credit PA.

Reposted from 2010 to add new data that suggests the trend is not pathological:
However, our archaeological research suggests that there's nothing to worry about. Children in medieval England entered puberty between ten and 12 years of age – the same as today...

In our study of 994 adolescents from medieval England, who died between 900-1550, we traced the stages of puberty by examining their canine teeth; the shape of their neck and wrist bones; and the fusion of their elbows, wrists, fingers and pelvises. Using these clues, we were able to work out the average age the children started puberty, reached their growth spurt, and reached full maturity. We were also able to work out when girls had their first period. The average age at which children entered puberty was the same as for most boys and girls today: between ten to 12 years. But medieval teenagers took longer to reach the later milestones, including menarche...

Our impression of what is the normal age for a child to reach each puberty milestone has been tainted by the use of data from children growing up in the challenging conditions of the last century, and an over reliance on the age of menarche, rather than the age at which children actually entered puberty, which appears to be unchanged.

Sign at an Australian church


The victims:


Trenchant commentary:


Onion commentary:

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
PARKLAND, FL—In the hours following a violent rampage in Florida in which a lone attacker killed 17 individuals and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Wednesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Indiana resident Harold Turner, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
I'm closing this post to comments.  Send your comments to your legislators.

Top photo via.
Victims photo via.
Cartoon via.

In Olympic news today...

"The Tongan cross-country skier perhaps best known for walking out into the last two Olympic opening ceremonies without a shirt is set to take to the snow in the Pyeongchang Games...

Pita Taufatofua has joked that his two immediate goals are to not crash into a tree and to finish before race organizers turn the lights off.

Taufatofua says the 15-kilometer race is probably a bit of a stretch for him since all his qualifying races were 10 kilometers. He just started skiing this year and has not skied much on snow.

He says he has a “love-hate, hate-hate relationship” with the 15-kiometer race. The last time he raced in a 15-kilometer event he lost a ski and finished in 1 hour, 40 minutes."
Update: He exceeded his goals.
"After spending only 12 weeks on snow in his life, having seen snow for the first time two years ago, Taufatofua finished third last, nearly 23 minutes behind the gold medallist. Three other athletes did not finish the race."
Photo: Instagram

15 February 2018

This is an Olympic 1% gold medal


The 2012 "gold medal" is 92.5% silver, 6.16% copper and 1.34% gold.

Details at BoingBoing.

Reposted from 2012 because it is presumably still true. 

Questions about Canada and the Olympics

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow?(UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? (USA)
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto. Can I follow the Railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada, but I forget its name. Its a kind of big horse with horns. (USA)
A: Its called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

As explained at Snopes, these are all "fake" questions.  More at the link.

Reposted from 2010.

Winter Olympics medals adjusted for size of countries


The chart above was originally published in The Atlantic in the middle of the games; I don't know whether it has been updated to reflect the final counts.

Reposted (but not updated) from four years ago, because it's still interesting.

14 February 2018

"Gilding the lily"


To "gild the lily" is a misquotation from Edward deVere's (a.k.a. "Shakespeare") 1595 play King John (Act IV, Scene 2):
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess."
An article in the StarTribune notes how Valentine's Day roses are now being "improved" -
In a warehouse north of Ecuador's capital, a small, busy army of dexterous workers puts the final touches on a shipment of made-to-order roses with tones as diverse as the colors of a rainbow suffused in fragrance capable of seducing even the most demanding nose.

Each petal is custom made for foreign clients whose orders multiply every year in the run up to Valentine's Day. For example, a client in Qatar recently ordered a shipment in the maroon and white colors of that nation's flag...

The two-day process involves cutting a flower at full bloom, dipping it into a plant-based solution to extract the natural colors and then infusing it with a pigment of the customer's choice. Additional colors and designs are applied using an airbrush.

The result is a multicolored bouquet as vibrant as a painter's palette but whose petals keep their natural softness and require no sunlight or water to last a year or more.
Photo:  "Luxury Hat Box of Preserved Pink & Lilac Roses – Medium"

"Thanks for the Valentine, kid"


Color adjusted from the original posted here.

Where I fit in the political spectrum - updated

Update January 2009: When I started TYWKIWDBI in December of 2007, the circus carnival known as the "presidential primaries" was in full swing, so I thought it was important for me to "state for the record" what biases I might have. I explained that I was registered as an Independent and was supporting Ron Paul. Then I posted the following three graphs...

(2007 text) There are a number of online websites that allow one to assess one's position by answering a long list of questions. I completed one of these back in 2003, with the following result-



Another assessment site in October of 2005 showed me to be leaning ever so slightly libertarian -



The most recent one was last December, and I was squarely in the center -



So, that's "where I'm coming from." Not unbiased, certainly, but probably as much "in the center" as any person you're likely to meet. If you want to find out how you stand, try the quiz at this link... http://www.politicalcompass.org or at this one - http://www.okcupid.com/politics. It might be an interesting experience.

Update January 2009: I'm amused to note that I was such a "newbie" then that I didn't even post the links in clickable form. I'll correct that now. Here's the one for Political Compass, and here's the OKCupid one.

I'm posting this update today because the Weblog Awards are sending a flurry of new traffic here this week. There seem to be a couple hundred extra visitors per day, most of them wondering what this blog is about, and as a corollary, what this blogger is about. The charts above pretty well define me as a centrist on the political spectrum; I tend to have equal contempt for polticians of both major parties. Now that you know where I stand, I challenge you to go to the links and chart out your own political biases.

Update February 2018:  I decided to take the test again, and found my position on the chart has changed slightly but not fundamentally:


I don't know whether I have changed, or whether the test standard reference points have changed (the questions are the same as in 2003), or in fact whether the repositioning of my dot is statistically significant.

Political Compass now offers a cartoon-amended chart to show where various well-known persons would be (approximately) situated on the chart:



I'm pleased to see that I'm seated right next to Bernie Sanders.

You can take the test here.

The Gilded Age


Yesterday evening I watched the PBS documentary embedded above.  It is part of the "American Experience" series, and as such you can expect it to be superb documentary television programming, but this episode was particularly interesting because of the parallels between America's classic "Gilded Age" with our present circumstances.  I highly recommend this program. 
The Gilded Age in United States history is the late 19th century, from the 1870s to about 1900. The term for this period came into use in the 1920s and 1930s and was derived from writer Mark Twain's 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding... The Gilded Age was an era of rapid economic growth, especially in the North and West. As American wages were much higher than those in Europe, especially for skilled workers, the period saw an influx of millions of European immigrants... The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, turnout was very high and national elections saw two evenly matched parties. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education, and ethnic or racial groups), and economic (tariffs and money supply). With the rapid growth of cities, political machines increasingly took control of urban politics. In business, massive, powerful, and wealthy trusts formed... The point noted as the end of the Gilded Age also varies. It is generally given as the beginning of the Progressive Era in the 1890s...
If you don't enjoy watching your computer monitor for two hours, the program will be available from your local library in DVD format.

Addendum:  The embedded video is now "blocked on copyright grounds."  This link is still working.

13 February 2018

Can someone identify vintage children's literature?

I had good success earlier today asking readers to identify an unknown houseplant.  Let's try a literature question.

A lady asked my wife for help identifying the titles/authors of some books she loved in her childhood.  She remembers reading them in the 1960s when she was about 6 years old, but the books were subsequently lost in a home fire.  As an adult she would like to reread the books.
"One book is about a little girl who goes to a nearby carnival and steals the little dancing ballerina on a music box and takes it home. She begins to feel guilty and returns it. The most memorable part of this book is the illustrations; it had beautiful colored pencil illustrations.

The second book was read to students in class and all the person recalls about the plot is that one of the characters could turn invisible and was up in a tree some of the time."

Third book: A giraffe misses its little girl so runs to find her school. On the way there, she stops to help a woman whose clothesline has fallen...by holding it up with her head.
"
I know the readership of this blog is replete with bibliophiles and especially with librarians.  Can anyone harvest their knowledge base to help this lady?

Triple axel explained

The axel is a figure skating jump with a forward take off. It is named after Norwegian figure skater Axel Paulsen who, in 1882, was the first skater to perform the jump [cruciverbalists will long ago have learned that this is why it's not spelled "axle."]

The axel jump is considered the most technically difficult jump among six types of jumps in single figure skating. According to ISU judging system, a triple axel jump has a base value of 8.5 points, while a double axel has that of 3.3 points. This makes a triple axel the highest base-valued triple jump, above other triple jumps such as the triple lutz (6 points), triple flip (5.3 points), triple loop (5.1 points), triple salchow (4.2 points), and triple toe loop (4.1 points).
More at Wikipedia (and daily during coverage of the Olympics) 

I can't even offer a comment


The story is at The Washington Post.

(comments are closed.  I'm moving on to other things)

Salp

A salp is a barrel-shaped, planktonic tunicate. It moves by contracting, thus pumping water through its gelatinous body. The most abundant concentrations of salps are in the Southern Ocean (near Antarctica), where they sometimes form enormous swarms, often in deep water, and are sometimes even more abundant than krill...

When food is plentiful, salps can quickly bud off clones, which graze the phytoplankton and can grow at a rate which is probably faster than that of any other multicellular animal, quickly stripping the phytoplankton from the sea. But if the phytoplankton is too dense, the salps can clog and sink to the bottom. During these blooms, beaches can become slimy with mats of salp bodies...

Although salps appear similar to jellyfish because of their simple body form and planktonic behavior, they are chordates: animals with dorsal nerve cords, related to vertebrates, animals with backbones.
You learn something every day. 

Image via Boredom Therapy, where there are more photos.

Can someone identify this plant for me?


One of our neighbors is moving and offered us this plant.  Before bringing it to our house we need to make sure it is not something that would be toxic if the cats eat the leaves.

Thanks in advance.

12 February 2018

Remembering the Lincoln Highway


Some years ago I did online research on the "Yellowstone Highway" because of a personal connection to it.  In that process I ran across numerous references to the "Lincoln Highway."  Today is February 12, and it's an appropriate occasion to blog the Lincoln info.  Wikipedia has a comprehensive page on the highway, but I'll start with excerpts from Atlas Obscura.
In 1919, [Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower] traveled with the military in a motor convoy across the country, from D.C. to San Francisco, in “the largest aggregation of motor vehicles ever started on a trip of such length,” the New York Times reported. This was one of the first major cross-country road trips, and it planted the idea in Eisenhower’s mind that the federal government could and should make improving U.S. highways a priority...

Once the convoy hit the West, the trucks started getting stuck in ditches, sand and mud, for hours at a time. By Utah, the conditions of the roads were so bad, it almost stopped the convoy altogether... In 1919, the military had just returned from the Great War in Europe, where War Department motor units had helped secure victory, and military leaders wanted to show their machines off. But any network of roads that these trucks might travel on was still, for the most part, imaginary...
The route the convoy would take was mostly along the Lincoln Highway, the first major transcontinental motor route. The more than 80 vehicles carried 24 officers and 258 enlisted men, and they left D.C. at 1 p.m., on July 7, 1919. It took the convoy the rest of the day to reach Frederick, Maryland, where Eisenhower joined the group. In seven and a half hours, they had traveled 46 miles... That pace—about 6 miles an hour—is what the convoy would average in its crawl across the country...

When it rained, the vehicles got stuck in soft spots on the roads, up to their hubs, and the men had to push them out... The day after that, it took seven hours to pull all the trucks through 200 yards of quicksand. This, though, was nothing compared to Utah...

But by the end of the trip, the official observer reported later, “the officers of the Convoy were thoroughly convinced that all transcontinental highways should be construed and maintained by the Federal Government.” As Eisenhower put it, “there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways,” and on that point, “the trip was an undoubted success.”
Much more on the Lincoln Highway at its Wikipedia page.  Some readers of this blog will undoubtedly have segments of the Lincoln Highway in their hometowns and/or have seen relevant markers in their  travels.  I hope to get the Yellowstone Highway info assembled and blogged later this year.

The official map of the Lincoln Highway is at this page of the Lincoln Highway Association's website.

The 1963 Lincoln had "suicide doors"

A "suicide door" is the slang term for an automobile door hinged at its rear rather than the front. Such doors were originally used on horse-drawn carriages, but are rarely found on modern vehicles, primarily because of safety concerns. 
Popularized in the custom car trade, the term is avoided by major automobile manufacturers in favor of alternatives such as "coach doors" (Rolls-Royce) [above], "FlexDoors" (Opel), "freestyle doors" (Mazda), "rear access doors" (Saturn), and "rear-hinged doors" (preferred technical term) Suicide doors were common on cars manufactured in the first half of the 20th century.
The nickname is mainly due to the design's propensity to seriously injure anyone exiting or entering the offside of the car if the door is hit by a passing vehicle. Also, in the era before seat belts, the accidental opening of such doors meant that there was a greater risk of falling out of the vehicle compared to front-hinged doors, where airflow pushed the doors closed rather than opening them further. Suicide doors were especially popular with mobsters in the gangster era of the 1930s, supposedly owing to the ease of pushing passengers out of moving vehicles, according to Dave Brownell, the former editor of Hemmings Motor News.
More at Wikipedia.   I've lost the source of the photos many years ago; I collected them after discovering the internet decades ago but before starting this blog, so didn't document the credits.  Just cleaning out some old "Lincoln" material today.

Geography of Lincoln Island


Do you remember where this is? (image source long since lost)

An excerpt from the Lincoln-Douglas debates

This is Lincoln's opening statement from the fourth debate (Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858):
MR. LINCOLN’S SPEECH.

Mr. Lincoln took the stand at a quarter before three, and was greeted with vociferous and protracted applause; after which, he said:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It will be very difficult for an audience so large as this to hear distinctly what a speaker says, and consequently it is important that as profound silence be preserved as possible.

While I was at the hotel to—day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied every thing. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness—and that is the case of Judge Douglas’s old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson. [Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject), that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.] I will add one further word, which is this: that I do not understand that there is any place where an alteration of the social and political relations of the negro and the white man can be made except in the State Legislature—not in the Congress of the United States—and as I do not really apprehend the approach of any such thing myself, and as Judge Douglas seems to be in constant horror that some such danger is rapidly approaching, I propose as the best means to prevent it that the Judge be kept at home and placed in the State Legislature to fight the measure. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] I do not propose dwelling longer at this time on this subject.
The fulltext of the entire debate is at Teaching American History.

This is not a subject matter that I was taught in school or have any particular knowledge about, so I can't offer any informed commentary on the context and the question of whether or to what extent President Lincoln amended his opinions after he gained the presidency.  Those with a proper background in history, sociology etc are welcome to clarify matters in the Comments.

11 February 2018

Snowfall alters the meaning of a neighborhood sign


The full text of the sign is "Drive Like Your Kids Live Here."

Chandelier made of human bones


Strange Remains has an "almost complete list of human bone chandeliers."  Photo from the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic.

This guy has nice legs


via

Stock market volatility blamed on "machines"

We've been through this before, but sufficient controls were not instituted.  Here we go again.
As the Dow Jones industrial average collapsed 700 points in 20 minutes Monday afternoon and the stock market jerked from bad to cataclysmic, traders and analysts coalesced around an increasingly routine explanation: Blame the machines.

Lightning-fast trading models, automated sell orders and an arsenal of sophisticated algorithms... are likely to have made a crazy trading day that much crazier, spooking anyone with a retirement fund and sparking an outburst of panic selling...

The market is always “just one step away from massive volatility because of programmed trading,” said Michael Yoshikami, the chief executive of Destination Wealth Management, an investment-management firm in Walnut Creek, Calif. “There’s no way that investors can compete with a computer making 1,000 trades a second. What it does is it ramps up the psychology of fear and greed for individual investors.”..

But Monday’s abrupt fall — which followed months of rising markets and engineered at superhuman speeds — had many analysts remembering the 2010 “flash crash,” another breakneck fall and rebound blamed on the chaos of unchecked automated trades...

The computers react to evidence exponentially faster than any human — think millionths of a second, instead of minutes — and can move en masse, trading at high volumes around the world...

Investment managers say the algorithms’ cold calculations end up sparking hysterical sales among the humans, undermining confidence and feeding a vicious cycle that leads more and more algorithms to do their thing...
And who benefits from this lack of control?  Those with the best computers.
Few analysts expect this new reality of high-speed, high-data trades will change, save for a crackdown from government regulators or the stock exchanges themselves, which make money from fast-paced trading by selling access to by-the-microsecond data feeds of market activity. The Nasdaq exchange made $156 million, or a quarter of its revenue, in the most recent quarter from “information services” including selling trading data.

But critics — including those named in “Flash Boys,” Michael Lewis’s 2014 book on high-frequency trades — say that computerized trading can end up rigging the markets in favor of super-fast trading firms at the expense of everyone else.
More at the Washington Post.

10 February 2018

Places with "Saint" in their name


Found at Strange Maps/BigThink:
The data, collected from the databases of the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency by Polish infographic producers Biqdata, shows 20,808 such places across the continent...

France, now a beacon of 'laïcité' – the French version of secularism – in previous centuries prided itself on being 'la fille ainée de l'église' (the oldest daughter of the church). And its Christian heritage still shows in the sheer number of saintly place-names, from Saint-Denis and Saint-Cloud near Paris to Saint-Brieuc in Brittany and Saint-Laurent-du-Var in the Provence.

No less than 43% of the European total of 'Saint(e)' names occurs in France, with areas of higher density in Normandy, and the Loire and Rhône valleys. The north, northeast and southwest seem to have been less touched by holy topography.

Runner-up, by about half of the French total, is Spain. With 4,444 'San' or 'Santa' topographies, it represents 21.5% of the European total. But here the regional distribution is more skewed than in France, or any other country for that matter: most of Spain is actually fairly saint-name-free...
More at the link, including this list of patron saints and their causes:
Anne (French-Canadian voyageurs), Anthony of Padua (those seeking lost persons or items), Barbara (service personnel of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces), Bernardine of Siena (advertisers), Bernard of Menthon (skiers), Cajetan (the unemployed), Cassian of Imola (stenographers), Cecilia (musicians), Columbanus (motorcyclists), Drogo of Sebourg (coffee-house keepers), Elmo (pyrotechnicians, steeplejacks, chimneysweeps and anyone working at great heights), Fiacre (taxi drivers), Gummarus (lumberjacks), Joan of Arc (soldiers), John Bosco (editors), Joseph of Arimathea (funeral directors), Joseph of Cupertino (astronauts), Kateri (ecologists), Lidwina (ice skaters), Martha (dieticians), Mary Magdalene (hairdressers, pharmacists and prostitutes), Matthew (tax collectors and perfumers, among many others), Philip (pastry chefs), Solange (shepherdesses), Ursula (orphans), Valentine (beekeepers), Vitus (comedians), Wolbodo (students), Zita (waiters).

The glory that was Romanov

From a review by Anne Applebaum of two new books about the Romanovs:
Peter also created spectacles for the general public. On his return from a military victory against the Turks in 1696, he staged a Roman triumph in Moscow, which included statues of Mars and Hercules, and himself dressed in a black German coat and breeches, a costume that would have mystified his subjects. Catherine the Great toured her empire on a trip organized by Grigory Potemkin, her lover and chief adviser. (The journey would provide the origins of the phrase “Potemkin village.”) Her entourage included fourteen carriages and 124 sleighs; when the ice melted on the Dnieper, the royal party moved on to “seven luxurious barges, each with its own orchestra, library and drawing room, painted in gold and scarlet, decorated in gold and silk, manned by 3,000 oarsmen, crew and guards and serviced by 80 boats.” It was designed to impress, and it did. One observer compared it to Cleopatra’s fleet.
Via Harper's.

How to prepare for your hospital stay


IIRC, these guidelines were created in the 1980s by Dr. Barbara Phillips, Professor of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. They are probably still applicable today.

Trigger warning

From a list of objects that were mistaken for guns during shootings of civilians by police in the United States since 2001.
Wrench
Cordless drill
Water-hose nozzle
Flashlight
Shower rod
Cane
Broomstick
Hairbrush
Sunglasses
Bottle of cologne
Underwear
Tinfoil
Bottle of beer...
The list continues at Harper's.

The American voting process

Another article raises doubts about the technology - this time not about the electronic voting machines, but about the scanners that read paper ballots:
...in liberal Madison, a judge gave each Wisconsin county the option of doing a hand recount or not. Racine declined.
So Whitlock and her colleagues devised a simple work-around. They bought manual counters, mechanical hand clickers. They clicked away as each ballot slipped into the electronic scanner, tallying how many votes were for Clinton, Trump or blank — a so-called under­vote. They kept noticing their totals varied from the scanners. When Whitlock’s team saw the scanner miscount 15 votes in a 300-voter precinct in Elmwood Park, she politely asked officials to do a hand count of that precinct. That was an error rate of five percent in a contest, where statewide, Trump’s margin of victory was less than one percent. Whitlock’s request was swiftly denied...

“Three observers click counted votes. The Clinton and Trump counters clicked considerable more votes than a scanner counted,” said Rennert, wearily reading aloud the challenge. “I have no idea what you’re saying except you are requesting a hand count.”
Rennert put down the paper. She looked at the room, palms up, exasperated. She said nothing.
“Do you want to ask me if you don’t understand?” asked Whitlock.
“No,” Rennert tartly replied. “Is this the purpose of a hand count? Yes or No?”
“The purpose of a hand count is to get to the truth,” Whitlock replied.
“No,” Rennert said, her hands up like stop signs. “How much is it?”
“Three-hundred,” a worker said, referring to the number of ballots.
“I don’t care if it’s five,” Rennert declared. “I am not going to do a hand count for anybody.”
...

They shrugged at the fact that Michigan had Trump’s closest margin nationwide: just eleven thousand votes out of 4.8 million ballots cast. Some seventy-five thousand ballots did not show a vote for president, Michigan’s secre­tary of state office reported on its website.
That last omission is always suspicious. That’s because people tend to vote for the high-profile races if they vote at all. Maybe some of these 75,000 ballots had presidential votes, but they were not properly scanned. If a good number were from around Detroit, which went two-to-one for Clinton, maybe Trump did not win Michigan after all. Local election activists pointed to a 1950s state law that gave dis­cretion to election officials to examine and recount every paper ballot. But Thomas went on TV saying it would not be done. Detroit’s election director followed his cue, apologizing for the sorry state of voting in his city.
The longread is at Salon.

Tree cover in Europe

"High resolution map of all the forests of Europe. Color scheme goes from black as 0% forest to bright green as close to 100%, dense forest." (click to embiggify)
Via Boing Boing, where there is a link to additional maps (which can be purchased as posters).

Competitive eater


She consumed 501 wings in half an hour.

Consider appointing a "digital executor"

Excerpts from a article at Reuters:
In the not-so-olden days of a few years ago, relatives might have sifted through stacks of documents to sort out your affairs after you died. These days, much of your presence in this world is floating around in the cloud: email, online drives, social media. Even your financial accounts are probably paperless at this point.

To give your family access to your accounts after you die, you need to do some work in advance, leaving instructions in your will for everything from access to your Facebook page to how to redeem your cryptocurrency...

Passwords and logins may be all in your head, but they are not in anybody else’s. So do a full accounting of everywhere you might be digitally – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, bank accounts, 401(k) providers, bitcoin exchanges – and document how to get access...

In a traditional will, you name certain people to handle affairs if you pass away or are incapacitated. Same goes for digital property. This could very well be a different person than the one handling your financial or healthcare directives...
More at the link.

08 February 2018

An early sign of spring


Signs of spring are latitude-dependent.  Up here in the still-frozen north (a two-week stretch with daily high temps below freezing) we are still ankle-deep in snow with another 4" due tonight.  My phenology calendar shows another week before we can expect the earliest robin to arrive.

But this morning our local Farm and Fleet had a newly-set-up and freshly-stocked rack of veggie seeds as a reminder that it won't be long...

07 February 2018

High-school basketball story


I think I probably posted the original story years ago but can't find it now.  Doesn't matter - there's enough backstory in this video to explain the signficance.

Muslims accused of planning to "infiltrate" the Minnesota Republican party

Two Minnesota Republican state lawmakers and a local GOP official are facing scrutiny after they reportedly shared a Facebook post accusing Muslims of preparing to “infiltrate” the party’s caucuses this month.
State Reps. Kathy Lohmer and Cindy Pugh, shared the post created by Dave Sina, chairman of the Fourth Congressional District GOP, this week, according to the Star Tribune. Sina has since taken it down, but not before the Star Tribune captured a screenshot
In the post, Sina said a friend of his had attended a caucus training session held at a mosque by the Muslim American Society. MAS is a nonpartisan organization that promotes civic engagement among American Muslims with local chapters across the U.S.
Sina claimed that Muslims are trying to “infiltrate our republican caucuses on Feb. 6” and that “they didn’t talk about the general election but I am sure they are ahead of us in that as well.”
More at the Huffington Post and the links.

Lobsters vs. crayfish


I found the above photo on The Guardian as a SkyPixel aerial photography competition winner.  The caption reads "A [lobster] farm in Tuy Hoa, Phu Yen province, central Vietnam."

The photo got me thinking about what defines a "lobster."  I couldn't imagine any of the bottom-dwelling lobsters I once enjoyed at the West Street Cafe having come from such floating farms.   As  I researched "lobster farming" I found video like this intriguing one:


I thought "he calls them lobsters, I call them crayfish."  But perhaps I'm provincial and too restrictive in my vocabulary, since prawns and scampi are classified as lobsters.  Maybe it's the freshwater vs. seawater habitat that is the distinguishing characteristic.  No time to pursue it further.  Good photo and video.  You learn something every day.

About that federal budget

It was another crazy news week, so it's understandable if you missed a small but important announcement from the Treasury Department: The federal government is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year - President Donald Trump's first full year in charge of the budget.

That's almost double what the government borrowed in fiscal year 2017.

Here are the exact figures: The U.S. Treasury expects to borrow $955 billion this fiscal year, according to a documents released Wednesday. It's the highest amount of borrowing in six years, and a big jump from the $519 billion the federal government borrowed last year.

Treasury mainly attributed the increase to the "fiscal outlook." The Congressional Budget Office was more blunt. In a report this week, the CBO said tax receipts are going to be lower because of the new tax law.

The uptick in borrowing is yet another complication in the heated debates in Congress over whether to spend more money on infrastructure, the military, disaster relief and other domestic programs. The deficit is already up significantly, even before Congress allots more money to any of these areas.
This is a bipartisan fuck-up.  We desperately need some adults in Washington.

A marble run incorporating a dozen antigravity mechanisms


It's set up on a tilted table, which helps explain the sometimes puzzling physics.

Via everywhere.

Hookworm as a souvenir of your beach vacation

Hookworms infect 740 million people worldwide, mostly in poorer countries with subpar sanitation. But they can show up anywhere. The Dominican Republic certainly has them, as does most of Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. And until the early 20th century, large swaths of the United States had them too. In fact, parts of rural Alabama still play host to hookworms...

You’ll probably find plenty of information about the vaccines you should get (mostly hepatitis A and B, rabies, and yellow fever). There will be warnings about the dangers of dengue, schistosomiasis, and malaria. But you're unlikely to spot anything about hookworms.

This might be because you can’t actually prepare for hookworms before you go. As a traveler, all you can do is wear sandals on the beach, sit on towels, and wash off with soap and water after you touch sand. But if no one tells them in advance, the average person (from a non-hookworm-plagued country) won’t think to wear shoes on the beach. Most American seasides are free of hookworms, so we’re not trained to think about these things before we hit the waves.
More at Popular Science.

"Dining with strangers"

The Star-Tribune carried a story this week about restaurants setting up "communal tables" where diners can sit with strangers.
Dropping their chilly, arm’s-length practices, complete strangers are now willingly sitting next to one another — and testing the boundaries of their well-guarded personal space — as they enjoy a meal.
With solo diners, couples and groups all gathering around mammoth tables and counters at restaurants across the metro area, Twin Citians seem to be catching up with the way the rest of the world dines.

“In California, it’s the norm,” said architect David Shea of Shea Inc. in Minneapolis, which designs restaurants all over the country. “Up and down the East Coast, too. In New York, it’s a given that we’ll include a social table. It’s all about socializing, about talking about the food you’re eating and the drinks you’re drinking. I’ve been pushing socialization as a part of dining for as long I’ve been at this, and that’s 40 years.”

This newfound acceptance is part of a larger trend, where dining out is becoming more and more casual.
I remember 50 years ago having dinner in Boston at Durgin-Park and being seated at an immensely long table with a checkered tablecloth with strangers next to me.  I hope that tradition continues there.  Can any readers confirm?

Photo credit anthony.souffle@startribune.com

Optical illusion



The two photos are identical - even though it appears that the tracks are more vertical in the right photo and more slanted in the left one.

Similar in concept to the Leaning Tower of Pisa illusion.

Via within the crainium.  


Reposted from 2009 to add this even more dramatic pairing:


Remember, the two photos are exactly identical.

Almost as awesome as this one.  If you enjoy these, note you can access this blog's 62 posts about optical illusions from the categories section in the right sidebar.

Do you wanna play "doctor" ?


via.
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