03 August 2015


GIF of a baby who gets glasses and sees clearly for the first time.

Wikipedia has a page for non-human electoral candidates.

There is a line of clothing styled especially for children with autism.  "...some common features on clothing — things like buttons, zippers, tags, and lace — can make it difficult for children with autism to get dressed by themselves... and without a clear front or back so that kids can put them on whichever way they please... includes tracking technology in several of its items..."

John Oliver asks why the American public keeps paying for lavish sports stadiums to benefit the wealthy owners of the teams.

"A newly discovered bound collection of All the Year Round, a magazine edited by Dickens, shows the Great Expectations author’s own handwriting. His annotations indicate that previously anonymous short stories, poems and articles were written by North and South author Elizabeth Gaskell, Alice in Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll and The Woman in White author Wilkie Collins."

How politicians artificially inflate the sales of their books.

Dog escapes from an enclosure.

An essay in the Economics column of The Guardian argues that capitalism has ended and we are now entering the postcapitalist period:
Postcapitalism is possible because of three major changes information technology has brought about in the past 25 years... information is corroding the market’s ability to form prices correctly. That is because markets are based on scarcity while information is abundant. The system’s defence mechanism is to form monopolies – the giant tech companies – on a scale not seen in the past 200 years, yet they cannot last... we’re seeing the spontaneous rise of collaborative production: goods, services and organisations are appearing that no longer respond to the dictates of the market and the managerial hierarchy...
Someone has developed a drone that fires a handgun.  The FAA says it's illegal.

A Facebook image of a Filipino boy doing his homework by the light of a McDonald's window [cropped at right] went viral.  "Nine-year-old Daniel Cabrera will now be able to fulfil his dream of becoming a policeman after donations of cash, school supplies and a college scholarship poured in."

Some startling facts about income inequality.

The really, REALLY big earthquake fault that will destroy cities and kill millions is not the San Andreas one.  It's the one in the Pacific Northwest.

An argument that Germany (not Greece) should exit the Euro.

While people were standing by at a Chevron gas station in Beaverton, taking video of a woman trapped inside of her burning car, a 19-year-old came to her rescue...  what surprised Bittar wasn't the flames, it was the crowd of people he said standing around, taking video of what he found to be a woman trapped in her burning car. "There was like six bystanders just videotaping like oh man she needs to get some help." That's when Bittar took the situation into his own hands. "I told her, hey I'm going to pull you out, get away from the window because I have to break it and she's like okay," he described.  The woman was taken by medic crews to a nearby hospital.

Krebs on Security analyzes the hack of AshleyMadison, which has some 37 million users.  Some have speculated that the hack threatens national security because of the high probability that people in the upper echelon of the American political establishment have made use of the service. "Washington, D.C., had the highest rate of membership for the site of any city."

Suggestions for those who would like to start reading contemporary comic books.

"Hollywood actor George Clooney launched an initiative on Monday to track down and help bring to justice those funding and profiting from Africa’s deadliest conflicts, in a bid to fight corruption in war zones.  Clooney joined forces with US human rights activist John Prendergast in a project called The Sentry that aims to investigate the flow of money in and out of conflict zones and give policymakers the tools to take effective action.  Using data collection, field research and analysis technology, the initiative plans to expose how conflict is financed and profits laundered, with a website encouraging people to anonymously submit leaks and tips."

A Kiwi has won the French-language Scrabble world championship, reportedly without speaking a word of French.

"An anti-gay political party in Kenya plans to protest against U.S. President Barack Obama by greeting him with 5,000 "totally naked" protesters for his "open and aggressive support for homosexuality."  The Republican Liberty Party's "main objective is for him to see and understand the difference between a man and woman," according to a party statement..."

A video explains how to repair a broken wing on a butterfly.

Charles Darwin and his friends terraformed Ascension Island.

"In his speech in Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday denouncing the influence of lobbyists, Jeb Bush neglected to mention one critical detail: The event was organized by a powerful corporate lobbying group that has helped financially support his White House bid."

A local news anchor spontaneously offers his personal opinion as to why Amazon has surpassed Walmart in market cap.  LOL.

An extended article about Ursula Le Guin and her views of contemporary literature, speaking truth to power:
“I think she’s gotten more daring, more feminist, more political,” says the Portland novelist Molly Gloss, a onetime student of Le Guin’s who has been her friend since the 1980s. “She’s more willing to rattle cages. At the National Book Awards, there’s a whole table full of Amazon folks, and she looks right at them and tells them what she thinks of how they’re trying to take over publishing. And then she looks right at her own publishing house and says their policies are making it impossible for libraries to lend e-books. These aren’t the kinds of things you imagine other writers being willing to say out loud.”
George McGovern did father a "secret child."  It could have affected his national campaign against Nixon:
“Somehow, the material ended up with President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign – possibly leaked by the bureau’s longtime director, J. Edgar Hoover – but it was never disclosed during the campaign.”... Nixon didn’t need the Fort Wayne story to beat McGovern. After Thomas Eagleton, McGovern’s running mate, revealed he had been treated for depression and left the ticket, defeat was already in the air.
Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungus that normally affects dead snakes, is now attacking the scales of live snakes.

"On Monday’s edition of “Fox & Friends,” Elisabeth Hasselbeck speculated that an “irritated” Sandra Bland could have “attacked” Officer Brian Encinia with her cigarette, because the co-host is “sure someone has, in the history of this land, used a cigarette against a police officer.”... “What if, I mean, there are times, I’m sure, someone has, in the history of this land, used a cigarette against a police officer,” Hasselbeck said. “Maybe chucked it at him — pushed it at him?” “Absolutely,” former New York Police Department officer John Rafferty replied."

The top image is a coneflower - a favorite nectar source for butterflies in our garden.

30 July 2015

The "highly piscivorous" tiger trout

The tiger trout... is a sterile, intergeneric hybrid of the brown trout (Salmo trutta) and the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). The name derives from the pronounced vermiculations, evoking the stripes of a tiger. It is an anomaly in the wild, with the brook trout having 84 chromosomes and the brown trout 80. Records show instances as far back as 1944. The cross itself is unusual in that the parents are members of different genera...

Tiger trout can be produced reliably in hatcheries. This is done by fertilizing brown trout eggs with brook trout milt and heat shocking them, which causes creation of an extra set of chromosomes and increases survival from 5% to 85%...

Tiger trout are known to be highly piscivorous (fish-eating), and are a good control against rough fish populations...Their own population numbers can be tightly controlled as well, since they are sterile.
Photo cropped for size from original found at Reddit.

The Christian flag

A rant at Salon decries efforts to give precedence to the Christian flag above the national one:
The push began last week, when North Carolina’s Elizabeth Baptist Church Pastor Rit Varriale posted a video to YouTube calling people across the land “to stand up for traditional values and beliefs” by raising a Christian flag above the American one to send a message that “We’ll serve God before government… a government that tries to coerce us to violate our commitments to God.”...

In a conversation with Baptist Press, Variable added that “If you stop and think about it, [flag etiquette] is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches us. We are first and foremost Christians who are called to serve the living God.” (Flag etiquette dictates that the American flag always appear above all other flags on the same flagpole.)...

This spring, both Cochran and Bleckley County, Georgia, voted to raise a Christian flag over municipal buildings — despite the fact that as Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, “It sends a crystal clear message that one religion is favored above all others.”
The entry at Wikipedia offers some historical perspective:
The Christian Flag is a flag designed in the early 20th century to represent all of Christianity and Christendom, and has been most popular among Protestant churches in North America, Africa and Latin America.  The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus. The white represents Jesus' purity...

The Christian Flag was first conceived on September 26, 1897, at Brighton Chapel on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York...During World War II the flag was flown along with the U.S. flag in a number of Lutheran churches, many of them with German backgrounds, who wanted to show their solidarity with the United States during the war with Germany... It can be seen today in or outside many Protestant churches throughout the world, particularly in Latin America and Africa... 
The entry there goes on to discuss denominational flags and Christian elements in various national flags.

Photo credit: Flickr/Joanne Canen, Creative Commons License


Graphic - more in an audio sense than visually.


Rwandans have always cherished and loved their culture and hair has been part of their fashion. They have from time memorial had many hairstyles. Ibisage was for the grown-up children while men and women sported amasunzu and married women uruhanika...

Amasunzu had more than 30 forms and was common among teenagers, the youth and, in some cases, adult men. The style is designed by cutting some of the hair sideways, towards the middle, then leave it to grow.
“It is a style of elegance, hygiene; it reflected reality and maturity among girls,” said Epa Binamungu, a 60-year-old visual artist. “Most adolescent girls would use it to show pride; it showed that that a girl was a virgin...

In the olden times, when a girl got married she would change from amasunzu to a hairstyle that left the hair to grow freely (gutega urugori), implying that she was married and show respect for her husband and their children.
The youth who wear it today, especially young men, say amasunzu reflects self-realisation and the pride of embracing Rwandan culture.
More at The East African.  Photo via imgur and Reddit.

Neil Young vs. Monsanto. Monsanto wins.

Neil Young has released a short film that continues his campaign to draw attention to the alleged misdemeanours of the agrochemical corporation Monsanto. Seeding Fear is a 10-minute documentary telling the story of a farmer who defied Monsanto in court after having been accused of using the company’s copyrighted GM soya beans. He was one of a number of farmers sued by the huge corporation for copyright infringement...

The release of the film was timed to coincide with Thursday’s vote in the House of Representatives on a measure to block mandatory labelling on foods made with GM crops. The Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act, has been dubbed the and the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” by opponents. Young’s intervention did not sway the vote: the bill, among whose architects was the Grocery Manufacturers Association, was passed by 275-150.
The video focuses on the decline of "seed-cleaning" whereby crop seeds are reused the next year.  The protagonist in the short film cleans seeds and has been threatened by Monsanto.  He can't clean seeds for the public because of the risk that Monsanto will send someone with GMO seed for him to clean, then sue him for doing so.

29 July 2015

Toddler learning experience

Cropped for size from the original at imgur, via Reddit.

Addendum:  Perhaps he's preparing early for a career as a lab technician:

(This photo is not a joke.  It illustrates a sight-saving technique that anyone working with caustics needs to understand and be ready to implement.)

Photo via Fresh Photons.

Vocal range

Discussed at Reddit Videos.

Chester Rows, 1895

Chester Rows consist of covered walkways at the first floor behind which are entrances to shops and other premises. At street level is another set of shops and other premises, many of which are entered by going down a few steps. The Rows, found in each of the four main streets of the city of Chester, Cheshire, England, are unique; nothing precisely similar exists anywhere else in the world. Dating from the medieval era, the Rows may have been built on top of rubble remaining from the ruins of Roman buildings, but their origin is still subject to speculation. In some places the continuity of the Rows has been blocked by enclosure or by new buildings, but in others modern buildings have retained the Rows in their designs. Undercrofts or "crypts" were constructed beneath the buildings in the Rows. The undercrofts were in stone while most of the buildings in the Rows were in timber. Today about 20 of the stone undercrofts still exist, but at the level of the Rows very little medieval fabric remains.
Photo credit: "The Cross and Rows, Chester, Cheshire, England, ca. 1895" by Detroit Publishing Co., under license from Photoglob Zürich.  Via Alabaster.

"The Old Man and the Sea" painted on glass

The Old Man and the Sea (Старик и море) is a 1999 paint-on-glass-animated short film directed by Aleksandr Petrov, based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Hemingway. The film won many awards, including the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. Work on the film took place in Montreal over a period of two and a half years and was funded by an assortment of Canadian, Russian and Japanese companies. French and English-language soundtracks to the film were released concurrently. It was the first animated film to be released in IMAX.

The film's technique, pastel oil paintings on glass, is mastered by only a handful of animators in the world. Petrov used his fingertips in addition to various paintbrushes to paint on different glass sheets positioned on multiple levels, each covered with slow-drying oil paints. After photographing each frame painted on the glass sheets, which was four times larger than the usual A4-sized canvas, he had to slightly modify the painting for the next frame and so on. For the shooting of the frames a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. 
I was familiar with the story, but fascinated by the technique used, so I tracked down this video about the artist:

The style of the animation reminded me of the classic The Man Who Planted Trees, but it appears to be technically different.  This video presents a step-by-step instruction on the painting-on-glass technique.

A sikh subjected to "random" searches at airports

Via imgur.

The global money shuffle

As reported by the BBC:
A global super-rich elite had at least $21 trillion (£13tn) hidden in secret tax havens by the end of 2010, according to a major study...

The Price of Offshore Revisited was written by James Henry, a former chief economist at the consultancy McKinsey, for the Tax Justice Network. ..

Mr Henry said his $21tn is actually a conservative figure and the true scale could be $32tn...  Mr Henry used data from the Bank of International Settlements, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and national governments. His study deals only with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts...

Mr Henry said that the super-rich move money around the globe through an "industrious bevy of professional enablers in private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries...

"Minnesota nice" drivers

"A family of ducks walked across the highway in front of traffic, causing cars to swerve out of their lanes and in front of other vehicles. Fortunately, no accidents happened and the family of ducks safely made it across the road."

The Minnesota State Patrol is advising drivers to not stop for wildlife that may get onto a busy interstate.  State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Neilson says she knows the advice doesn’t sit well with most people, but slamming the brakes could cause a chain-reaction crash.

If a crash had resulted in a death or serious injury due to a driver stopping for a duck or any other animal, that driver could potentially face a criminal charge.

24 July 2015

The Great Black Swamp

Raise your hand if you already knew about this.  Didn't think so...
The Great Black Swamp... was a glacially fed wetland in northwest Ohio and extreme northeast Indiana, United States, that existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century...

It stretched roughly from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west, eastward to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Port Clinton along the Lake Erie shore, and from (roughly) US 6 south to near Lima and Findlay. Near its southern edge at the southwestern corner of present-day Auglaize County, the swamp was so impervious to travel that wheeled transportation was impossible during most of the year, and local residents thought the rigors of travel to be unsuitable for anyone except adult men...

Although much of the area to the east, south, and north was settled in the early 19th century, the dense habitat and difficulty of travel through the swamp delayed its development by several decades. A corduroy road (from modern-day Fremont to Perrysburg) was constructed through the Maumee Road Lands in 1825 and paved with gravel in 1838, but travel in the wet season could still take days or even weeks. The impassibility of the swamp was an obstacle during the so-called Toledo War (1835–36); unable to get through the swamp, the Michigan and Ohio militias never came to battle. Settlement of the region was also inhibited by endemic malaria. The disease was a chronic problem for residents of the region until the area was drained and former mosquito-breeding grounds were dried up.
A tip of the blogging hat to reader Dan Noland, who in response to my post about muck farms sent me links about this and the Kankakee Outwash Plain.  You learn something every day.

Catch of the day

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