25 June 2017

Divertimento #130

A young man with Proteus syndrome discovers that his birth defect gives him a biologic advantage as a baseball pitcher.

"The Trust for Public Land named the city’s parks and recreation facilities tops in the nation among 100 large city park systems in rankings released Wednesday. It’s Minneapolis’ fifth year at No. 1."

This video explains the use of a dolly zoom in cinematography.

Urine is NOT efficacious in neutralizing the toxins in a jellyfish sting.

"...a search of available marriage license data by a group called Unchained at Last... turned up cases of 12-year-old girls married in Alaska, Louisiana and South Carolina, while other states simply had categories of “14 and younger.”.. Among the states with the highest rates of child marriages were Arkansas, Idaho and Kentucky. The number of child marriages has been falling, but every state in America still allows underage girls to marry..."

"Sallekhana is a supplementary vow to the ethical code of conduct of Jainism. It is the religious practice of voluntarily fasting to death by gradually reducing the intake of food and liquids."

"Placing books on shelves with the spines facing outwards is a relatively recent phenomenon, according to Mark Purcell, former libraries curator for the National Trust and now overseeing the research collections at Cambridge University Library.  Until fashions changed in the 18th century, book titles and authors were not printed on the spine but written in ink on the edge of pages."

"What has 4 letters, sometimes 9 letters, but never has 5 letters."

Awesome balloon art.

King John lost the crown jewels:
When the tide turned and the water began pouring back in, they were still navigating the treacherous bogs and sinking sands. The crown jewels—and many of the men and horses—drowned in the flood... It is also believed that this lost treasure included a good amount of gold, precious items like bejeweled utensils and chalices, and a significant amount of the loot that he had acquired over the course of his recent conquests. But, to this day, none of this bounty has been found. It’s a predicament that has puzzled treasure hunters for decades..."
All you need to know More than you need to know about monkey selfies.

The concept of "universal basic income" ("give everyone enough money to live on") will be field-tested ("studying the effects of a 12-year income guarantee delivered by the NGO GiveDirectly to 26,000 individuals in East Africa using random assignment of villages."}

A man died of Vibrio septicemia after he went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after getting a tattoo (but he may have been immunocompromised by alcoholic liver disease).

A Minnesota family is restoring a white pine forest; they've planted 3,500 trees in the past decade ("Ted spends an extraordinary amount of time attempting to protect the trees from deer...")

Here is the box score of a baseball game in which the two pitching staffs combined for 42 strikeouts (16+26) in 12 innings.

Those who enjoy following the activities of the Supreme Court probably already know "Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer God-damn." (answer at the very end of the Radiolab podcast.)

The Guardian explores the rise of neo-Nazis in modern America.  "Neo-Nazi activism in America has been undermined for decades by what both extremist leaders and hate group monitors describe as incredibly childish infighting."  The current political climate has changed that.

When did the United States achieve independence?  We celebrate the Fourth of July, because that is when America declared independence.  Some historians argue that independence isn't achieved until it is recognized by the world community (and that would be the Treaty of Paris in 1783).

You're not the only person who sometimes forgets what they are doing when they enter a room.

"For Christians looking for a way to opt out of an expensive health insurance market that they see as profit-driven, intruding on their personal freedom, and indifferent (at best) to issues of abortion and the sanctity of life, health care sharing ministries may seem like the perfect, providential solution."

Impressive bird wings trapped in amber. "...plumage types associated with modern birds were present within single individuals of Enantiornithes by the Cenomanian (99 million years ago)."  [if you are like me, you have to look up Cenomanian.]

One person's opinion that Bernie Sanders could have won the presidency.

A subreddit dedicated to "Room Porn."  Try browsing some pix of remarkable interior design and decorating.

The most numerous undomesticated bird in the world is the.... what?   I'll give you five guesses and you won't get it.  Ten.  And there are at least a billion of them.  Maybe ten billion.

A map of ships buried beneath San Francisco.

A judge has ruled that a neo-Nazi with explosives and a framed picture of Timothy McVeigh is not a threat.

Filmed on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.  Discussion thread here.

A poster by PETA.

Condor visits the man who saved his life.  If you've never seen the size of an Andean condor, be prepared to be impressed.

Sports videos:
There is a rule in baseball governing detached equipment.
A compilation of outstanding baseball errors.
Baseball 9-3 putouts.  
Louis Oosthuizen's 500-yard drive.

A list of all 213 Beatles' songs, rated and ranked by someone.

I highly recommend this photoessay about Siberian mammoth tusk hunters.

Why modern planes have ashtrays.

About those big blue exit signs on interstate highways ("who decides which businesses make it on the signs, and how much it all costs.")

This Napoleonic general lost three legs in battle (hat tip to the elves at No Such Things As A Fish).

An argument against Little Free Libraries ("examples of performative community enhancement, driven more so by the desire to showcase one’s passion for books and education than a genuine desire to help the community in a meaningful way.")

Drones used to locate and rescue lost hikers.

Why a car may have three tailpipes (in this case a Honda Civic).

Aussie video dissing anti-vaxxers.

"Whisker fatigue" is one explanation for fussy feline feeders. (Don't put the food in a deep dish)

In 1964 the United States orchestrated a coup that overthrew the democratically-elected leader of Guatemala and installed a military dictatorship there.  Not something that any of us were taught in school.

Interesting sign on a unisex bathroom door.

Is this a real product? (NSFW language).  If so, some Americans would buy it.

Jalopnik explains why you shouldn't run your car low on gas.

"Moth Eyes Inspire Glare-Resistant Coating For Cellphone Screens."

A clever pair of t-shirts.

I think this woman made a mistake.  Just my opinion.

Oops.  Not to be used for navigational purposes

Then years ago when I wrote the home page paragraph that introduces this blog, I stated that "We try to be the cyberequivalent of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities."  The embedded photos today are examples of cabinets of curiosity, via The Appendix and Wikipedia.

23 June 2017

Divertimento #129

And the third "gifdump"...

"Serves her right."

Clever rear window decal.

Sea lions are apex predators.  Don't turn your back on them (the girl was rescued unharmed).

How to make your dog happy in hot weather.

Oil on the racetrack.

Child magician does hidden ball trick badly.

HMB while I scramble down this cliff...

Homemade vortex cannon.

At my high school, a pep rally was just shouting "go team go."  The process has evolved.

Speedy duckling.

Shapeshifting lamp.

Baseball - an incredible way to strike out.

A mortar catapult.

An entire subreddit of chemical reaction gifs.  Put your safety glasses on.

Who ate the tater tots?

I feel sorry for this dog.  Hope he knocked the water bowl over.

Do not store your epinephrine pen in this box.

Oddly satisfying.

I must hide this Cheeto and save it for later.

A blind cat knows how to get down from his condo.

TIL that there is a subreddit for NO NO NO NO..... YES material.

Lady slows speeding residential traffic with a hairdryer.

Not sure how to describe this one.

Golf trick.

InnOcENt CaT gETs drAgGED iNtO HELL bY a DeMOn

Chipmunk escapes from cat.

Let's make a "human wheel."  WCGW?

Do NOT touch my eggs.

Cuttlefish masquerades as a hermit crab.

Cincinnati Reds vs. a pop fly.  Pop fly wins.

Pigeon carousel.

Be careful when you drive a car on a carpeted stage.

Dolphins create a "net" of mud to catch fish.

Justin Thomas makes an incredible putt at the recent U.S. Open.

It must have been fun practicing this routine.

Embedded images from a Guardian photoessay on Nabokov's butterfly art.

A "making of" Bladerunner 2049 preview

"Stunning visual environments" is an understatement.  I suggest clicking the fullscreen icon for this one.

22 June 2017

It would be like a "sharknado." With knives.

The photo above shows an area of ground in Chile's Atacama desert "paved" with large gypsum crystals.  Geologists now believe these surface concentrations originate as depositions by "dust devils."
Whirlwinds, dry convective helical vortices, move large gypsum crystals in the Andes Mountains of northern Chile. The crystals are entrained from a saline pan surface, where they grew in shallow surface brines. They are transported as much as 5 km and deposited in large dune-like mounds. The dune gravel is cemented relatively quickly by gypsum cement precipitating from near-surface saline groundwater, resulting in gypsum breccia. This marks the first occurrence of gravel-sized grains moved efficiently in air by suspension, provides a new possible interpretation for some ancient breccias and conglomerates, and improves understanding of limits of extremity of Earth surface environments. 
A hat tip to reader Ruth Beaty for alerting me to this report, which I found particularly fascinating because many years ago I used to dig in the salt plains of Oklahoma for gypsum (selenite) crystals similar to these.

Specimen images from the Online Mineral Museum (cluster) and Amusing Planet (see the latter for a brief photoessay about the digging experience, which is truly memorable).

The surfaces of the Atacama crystals show evidence of trauma such as that which a dust devil would generate:
The flats and dunes of the salar are covered by massive deposits of gypsum crystals of similar size and internal microtexture to those in the pools. However, the surfaces of these crystals are abraded, frosted, and pitted: textures characteristic of sand and silt grains that have experienced aeolian transport in suspension.
So while it would be tempting to walk into a dust devil...

... consider what might be whipping around in that vortex.

These observations also lend theoretical credence to the never-proven hypothesis that waterspouts are responsible for Fortean rains of frogs and fish.

Why are some spam emails "unblockable" ?

I use Earthlink Webmail, which is generally pretty good about filtering spam, and it allows me to block senders that I identify as sources of spam.

Most of the time...

Now I seem to have gotten on the radar of "cron-job.org" which sends me daily junk, and for which Earthlink indicates that "blocked sender" status is inapplicable.  I can understand why such limitations are applied to sources at "hotmail" for example, but why would some entity like this be protected?

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader BJ Nicholls for offering this link in his Comment.  It explains that the legitimate cron-job site has had their address highjacked by spammers.

Since Earthlink wouldn't let me click to add this "contact@cron-job" to my Blocked Sender List, I've now done so manually.  We'll see if that works.

Politicians on television

Via Jobsanger.

How companies harvest your web search info

In the summer of 2015, Alexandra Franco got a letter in the mail from a company she had never heard of called AcurianHealth. The letter, addressed to Franco personally, invited her to participate in a study of people with psoriasis, a condition that causes dry, itchy patches on the skin.

Franco did not have psoriasis. But the year before, she remembered, she had searched for information about it online, when a friend was dealing with the condition. And a few months prior to getting the letter, she had also turned to the internet with a question about a skin fungus. It was the sort of browsing anyone might do, on the assumption it was private and anonymous.

Now there was a letter, with her name and home address on it, targeting her as a potential skin-disease patient. Acurian is in the business of recruiting people to take part in clinical trials for drug companies. How had it identified her? She had done nothing that would publicly associate her with having a skin condition.
The explanation is at Gizmodo.

Modern war

A sniper with Canada’s elite special forces in Iraq has shattered the world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in military history at a staggering distance of 3,450 metres.
Sources say a member of Joint Task Force 2 killed an Islamic State insurgent with a McMillan TAC-50 sniper rifle while firing from a high-rise during an operation that took place within the last month in Iraq.

“Canada has a world-class sniper system. It is not just a sniper. They work in pairs. There is an observer,” a military source said. “This is a skill set that only a very few people have.”

“It is at the distance where you have to account not just for the ballistics of the round, which change over time and distance, you have to adjust for wind, and the wind would be swirling,” said a source with expertise in training Canadian special forces.

“You have to adjust for him firing from a higher location downward and as the round drops you have to account for that. And from that distance you actually have to account for the curvature of the Earth.”
I presume the sniper takes a series of preliminary shots at objects at the same distance, and the observer tells him how much he missed by so that he can compensate.

21 June 2017

The Lobster Coast

I have visited Maine several times and always enjoyed my stay there, but had never read a proper history of the state until a friend recently recommended this book.  Particularly interesting to me was the geologic explanation for the remarkable profusion of marine life in the Gulf of Maine, and the descriptions of the staggering abundance of lobsters and fish harvested from this region in prehistory and the early post-settlement era.
"... Indians depended on the living bounty of the Gulf of Maine...they left staggering shellheaps behind; a single heap of shucked oyster shells in Damariscotta covered an area of more than sixty acres to a depth of nearly thirty feet." (p. 63)

"Lobsters were everywhere.  On their way to the Kennebec, Raleigh Gilbert's men [early 1600s] caught fifty lobsters "of great bignesse" by simply rowing a boat over shallow water and gaffing the unsuspecting lobsters with a boat hook..." (p. 81)

"The cod bit quickly in those days and a good fisherman would catch 350 to 400 in a day... they weighed over one hundred pounds apiece..." (p. 85)

"In colonial days, a small boy could bring home enough [lobsters] to feed several families by siimply wading along the shore at low tide and gaffing the huge five- and ten-pound beasts hiding among the rocks... One group of indentured servants in Massachusetts became so upset with this diet that they took their owners to court winning a judgment that they would not be served lobster more than three times a week.  Lobsters were sometimes taken in great numbers and strewn on the fields as fertilizer..." (p. 170)

"The catch in those days would astound today's lobsterman.  Portland lobstermen in 1855 averaged seven four- to six-pound lobsters in every pot, every day throughout the four-month season.  (By comparison, today's lobstermen often find only one legal-sized lobster per trap, and it typically weighs between a pound and a pound and a half).  (p. 177)

"At the height of summer, hotel owners would pay as much as five cents for a good, two-pound dinner table lobster...  Smaller lobsters were no longer discarded, as the canneries would buy them for $1 per hundredweight..." (p. 186)

"Halibut, a great flatfish that could weigh nine hundred pounds and measure nine feet in length, had once been so numerous they were "looked upon as a nuisance" by cod-seeking fishermen.. On at least one occasion, a vessel using the old hook-over-the-side method caught more than 250 in three hours..." (p. 203)
In this regard the book reminded me of the spectacularly unbelievable accounts of pre-settlement North America described in Paradise Found.

Less pleasant are the accounts in the book of the pillage of these resources (only recently modulated by regulatory restrictions) and the human-human interactions, beginning with the arrival of Europeans and continuing to the modern era as the Boston/New York population "invades" rural coastal Maine.

An interesting summer read.

20 June 2017

Old Harry Rocks

"Old Harry Rocks are three chalk formations, including a stack and a stump, located at Handfast Point, on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, southern England. They mark the most easterly point of the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 There are various stories about the naming of the rocks. One legend says that the Devil (traditionally known euphemistically as "Old Harry") had a sleep on the rocks. Another local legend says that the rocks were named after Harry Paye, the infamous Poole pirate, whose ship hid behind the rocks awaiting passing merchantmen.[3] Yet another tale has it that a ninth-century Viking raid was thwarted by a storm, and that one of the drowned, Earl Harold, was turned into a pillar of chalk."
But why is the Devil called "Old Harry"?

Photo credit in the watermark.

A treasure trove of Nazi artifacts

As reported by ABC News:
In a hidden room in a house near Argentina's capital, police believe they have found the biggest collection of Nazi artifacts in the country's history, including a bust relief of Adolf Hitler, magnifying glasses inside elegant boxes with swastikas and even a macabre medical device used to measure head size.

Some 75 objects were found in a collector's home in Beccar, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, and authorities say they suspect they are originals that belonged to high-ranking Nazis in Germany during World War II...

The investigation that culminated in the discovery of the collection began when authorities found artworks of illicit origin in a gallery in north Buenos Aires.

Agents with the international police force Interpol began following the collector and with a judicial order raided the house on June 8. A large bookshelf caught their attention and behind it agents found a hidden passageway to a room filled with Nazi imagery...

The main hypothesis among investigators and member of Argentina's Jewish community is that they were brought to Argentina by a high-ranking Nazi or Nazis after World War II, when the South American country became a refuge for fleeing war criminals, including some of the best known.
Via the WorldNews subreddit.

Iran has attacked ISIS. This is important.

Reported yesterday by U.S. News:
Iran says its ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria was not only a response to deadly attacks in Tehran, but a powerful message to archrival Saudi Arabia and the United States, one that could add to already soaring regional tensions...

It also raises questions about how U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, which had previously put Iran "on notice" for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.
Context via Jobsanger:
Understandably, the Iranians were upset with Trump. His statement infers that Iran supports the group that attacked Tehran (ISIS). It's just a continuation of his claims that Iran supports the terrorists that are attacking Western nations. None of that is true.

Iran does offer support to a couple of groups defined as terrorists -- the Houthi in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon (and Palestine). Those are shiite muslim groups, and Iran is a shiite muslim state. But those are not the groups that attacked Iran, and they are not the groups responsible for attacks in Europe and the United States.

The groups mainly responsible for attacking Europe and the United States are sunni muslim groups -- ISIS and al-Queda. They get no support from Iran. Their support comes mainly from a country that Trump calls a "friend" -- Saudi Arabia...

Trump seems to want to lump all islamic fundamentalists into a single group of terrorists that hate the West. That is far too simple. It shows he is either lying and misleading Americans, or he doesn't understand the truth -- that the trouble in the Middle East is basically a religious civil war being fought between shiite and sunni muslims. He seems to have sided with the sunnis without understanding that they are where ISIS and al-Queda have originated. He also seems not to understand that ISIS was created when an American president (Bush) overthrew the secular government in Iraq and installed a shiite muslim government in its place (which caused sunnis to rebel against that government and the shiite government in Syria by creating ISIS).

Blaming Iran for terrorism in the West is ignoring the reality of what is happening. It would make more sense to blame Saudi Arabia. But Trump doesn't want to do that, because they have too much oil that we want and have plenty of money to spend on U.S. weapons. In effect, Trump has taken the side of the sunnis in the religious civil war -- the same side that is attacking the Western nations.
I'm going to close comments for this post; I just don't have time to moderate/curate them.  Move on.

You can walk around Machu Piccu using Google Streetview

It's no substitute for reality, of course, but it's not bad.

For newbies, start here (or the satellite view), zoom in with the +/- buttons (drag to recenter), then drop the little yellow Streetview man where you want to walk.  Drag your cursor left/right for panorama views, and (especially at Machu Piccu) up and down to look up and down.

Related news today:
This summer, under pressure from Unesco, which has repeatedly threatened to add Machu Picchu to its list of world heritage sites in danger, the Peruvian government has brought in measures to control the flow of tourists.

From 1 July, visitors will only be able to enter the site with an official tour guide, and tickets will grant entry for a specific time period, either a morning (6am-noon) or afternoon (noon-5.30pm). Guides must be licenced and group size will be limited to16 people. Visitors must also follow the defined routes around the site, a change from the present setup where it is possible to explore relatively independently and stay the entire day. 
More at the link.

19 June 2017

Welcome aboard

I'm impressed by the fact that in those days boarding a dirigible may have required considerable aerobic exercise...

Maybe there's an elevator in that mooring tower; otherwise it would be like climbing three ranger towers.

For the word freaks among us, the etymology of "blimp" is controversial.

Images via imgur.

Glymphatic system discovered

That's not a typo.  It's a new anatomical system.
Kari Alitalo had studied lymphatic vessels for more than two decades. So he knew that this network, which carries immune cells throughout the body and removes waste and toxins, didn’t extend into the brain: This had been accepted wisdom for more than 300 years. “Nobody questioned that it stopped at the brain,” says Alitalo, a scientist at the University of Helsinki in Finland...

But when Alitalo and Aspelund repeated the experiment, they got the same result. It seemed that the lymphatic vessels extended to the brain after all. This was surprising, to say the least: In the 21st century, major findings involving basic human anatomy are rare...

Researchers have identified two networks: the vessels that lead into and surround the brain, and those within the brain itself. The first is known as the lymphatic system for the brain, while the latter is called the glymphatic system. The “g” added to “lymphatic” refers to glia, the kind of neuron that makes up the lymphatic vessels in the brain. The glymphatic vessels carry cerebrospinal fluid and immune cells into the brain and remove cellular trash from it. Alitalo, Nedergaard, Kipnis and others have found evidence that when the systems malfunction, the brain can become clogged with toxins and suffused with inflammatory immune cells.

Over decades, this process may play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative illnesses, research suggests. “This is a revolutionary finding,” Nedergaard says. “This system plays a huge role in the health of the brain.”..

One key to glymphatic performance seems to be sleep. Nedergaard has shown that at least in mice, the system processes twice as much fluid during sleep as it does during wakefulness. She and her colleagues focused on amyloid beta; they found that the lymphatic system removed much more of the protein when the animals were asleep than when they were awake. She suggests that over time, sleep dysfunction may contribute to Alzheimer’s and perhaps other brain illnesses. “You only clean your brain when you’re sleeping,” she says. “This is probably an important reason that we sleep. You need time off from consciousness to do the housekeeping.” 
Further details at The Washington Post.  Absolutely fascinating.
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