19 May 2017

Divertimento #127


Blue whale vs. krill.  Whale wins.

"Free-fall lifeboat training."  Not sure, but I think these are used on open-sea oil rigs.

Traffic at a road intersection in Ethiopia.

Jaguar stalks and catches his (surprising) prey.

Very angry bird (language NSFW).  Discussed here.

Dog pulling a kid on a snow saucer.

"Combustibubbles"- but safety goggles in pocket :-( 

American patriot argues with a judge.

Just one question: is the background black or white?

NFL players' heights and weights, 1920s-1990s.


Public fountains are for looking at, not for playing on.

Jeans are "faded" with lasers.

A dog sits in a chair.

HMB while I ride in this golf cart.

Pineapple-picking teamwork.

People who have cats will understand this one.

Jaguar eating underwater.

Look!  Helicopters!  How exciting...

Mouse lemur "rocket"

Baby meets mother's identical twin for the first time.

Fun at the water park.

Fox finds a dog toy.


Why the backs of trucks have underguards.

How to use a fork to help hang a picture on a wall.

Schnauzer prevents little girl from going too deep in ocean.

Dog trained to protect his human.

"Son, I'll get your ball out of the tree..."

Chinese policeman at work.

"Power handshake" toy.

What you can do when you have claws like needles.

Exhibition table tennis rally.

"Mom, help me make a cool video!"  WCGW?


An "atomic trampoline" is impressive.

Apparently this toddler is a future ninja.

Hamster really likes his sand bath.

I would not get in this line.

Optical illusions.

Very vigorous baptism.

Windy day.

Timelapse of a bird building a nest.

Big SUVs don't mind flooded roads.

That one goth friend.

In science class, pay attention to the pendulum.

Baby's first pile of leaves.


In recognition of Syttende Mai, today's embedded pix are lantern slides of Norway: "A selection from a collection of early-20th-century lantern slides held at the Fylkesarkivet of Sogn og Fjordane, a county in the west of Norway. The slides are produced by at least two British photographers – professional photographer Samuel J. Beckett and amateur photographer P. Heywood Hadfield..."

16 May 2017

Sleep paralysis in an Ernest Hemingway story



In "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," Ernest Hemingway describes the impending death of a hunter suffering from a gangrenous leg (boldface emphasis mine):
Because, just then, death had come and rested its head on the foot of the cot and he could smell its breath.

"Never believe any of that about a scythe and a skull," he told her. "It can be two bicycle policemen as easily, or be a bird. Or it can have a wide snout like a hyena."

It had moved up on him now, but it had no shape any more. It simply occupied space.

"Tell it to go away."

It did not go away but moved a little closer.

"You've got a hell of a breath," he told it. "You stinking bastard."

It moved up closer to him still and now he could not speak to it, and when it saw he could not speak it came a little closer, and now he tried to send it away without speaking, but it moved in on him so its weight was all upon his chest, and while it crouched there and he could not move or speak, he heard the woman say, "Bwana is asleep now. Take the cot up very gently and carry it into the tent."

He could not speak to tell her to make it go away and it crouched now, heavier, so he could not breathe. And then, while they lifted the cot, suddenly it was all right and the weight went from his chest.
This is a superb description of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis (the paralysis, the muteness, the chest pressure, the dyspnea, and the cessation when the victim is touched or moved), so vivid and precise that I have no doubt that Hemingway must have experienced it himself (his lifestyle would have been compatible with a high risk for the syndrome).

Back when I was active in academia, I developed a special interest and expertise in sleep paralysis, and had visions of someday publishing a book on its portrayal in literature and folklore.  That seems unlikely now, but since I have file boxes full of information, perhaps I can incorporate some of that material into posts for this blog.

Fulltext of Hemingway's story.

Reposted from 2013 (has it really been that long?) to add some new information about Hemingway.  In a recently-published book, a psychiatrist argues that Hemingway may have suffered from chronic traumatic enchephalopathy - the disorder that has been in the news because of its association with professional football and other contact sports.
The psychiatrist from High Point University in North Carolina wrote of nine serious blows to Hemingway's head — from explosions to a plane crash — that were a prelude to his decline into abusive rages, "paranoia with specific and elaborate delusions" and his suicide in 1961.

Hemingway's bizarre behavior in his latter years (he rehearsed his death by gunshot in front of dinner guests, for example) has been blamed on iron deficiency, bipolar disorder, attention-seeking and any number of other problems.

After researching the writer's letters, books and hospital visits, Farah said he is convinced that Hemingway had dementia — made worse by alcoholism and other maladies, but dominated by CTE, the improper treatment of which likely hastened his death. "He truly is a textbook case," Farah said.
Farah dates Hemingway's first known concussion to World War I, several years before he wrote his short story, "The Battler." A bomb exploded about three feet from his teenage frame.

Another likely concussion came in 1928, when Hemingway yanked what he thought was a toilet chain and brought a skylight crashing down on him.

Then came a car accident in London — then more injuries as a reporter during World War II, when an antitank gun blew Hemingway into a ditch.
The rest of the story is at the StarTribune.

Image harvested from the 1936 Esquire publication of the story.

What a week...

Extended excerpts from the "Weekly Review" column in Harper's Magazine:
May 16, 2017
By Joe Kloc

U.S. president Donald Trump, whose attention span NATO officials announced they will accommodate by limiting their speeches to four minutes, fired FBI director James Comey, who had been overseeing one of multiple federal investigations into whether Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government. The president stated that he made the decision based on the recommendation of his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein; Rosenstein threatened to resign because he had never made any such recommendation; and Trump said that "regardless of recommendation" he was going to fire Comey because "Trump and Russia is a made-up story."

Trump's principal deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who once tweeted [re Hillary Clinton] that "you're losing" when "you are attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation," said that "the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence" in Comey, and the acting director of the FBI told Congress that Huckabee's statement was "not accurate" and that Comey "enjoyed broad support within the FBI."...

Trump held a meeting in the Oval Office with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, inviting one Russian photographer, but no U.S. journalists, to attend; a White house official said the Russians had "tricked" them into allowing the photographer in; and the photographer published a photo revealing that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was also at the meeting, despite not being on the White House schedule, not being shown in any official White House photographs, and not being mentioned in any subsequent White House accounts of the meeting. It was later reported that during the meeting Trump revealed "highly classified" information concerning the Islamic State to Kislyak, whom current and former U.S. intelligence officials have described as a top spy, and whom several Trump campaign surrogates and administration officials have falsely claimed not to have communicated with...

One senior Trump aide said, "We all know how this looks," while others hid from reporters in their offices, and a former KGB spy said he was "shaking" his head at "the incompetence" of the White House staff. A German lawmaker said that if Trump shared classified information with "other governments at will" he would become "a security risk for the entire Western world"; a European intelligence official said that his country may stop sharing intelligence with the United States; Trump's deputy national-security adviser, Dina Powell, said that reports about the president sharing classified information were "false"; a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry described the reports as "yet another fake"; and Trump, who once called for the execution of Edward Snowden because the former NSA contractor had "given serious information" to Russia, tweeted that he did in fact "share with Russia." A former U.S. intelligence official referred to the situation as a "nightmare," and Public Policy Polling found that more Americans now support than oppose impeaching Trump, who once told a reporter that, when he isn't having a nightmare, the content of his dreams is "always fucking."
Jon Stewart, please come back and put a humorous spin on this, because it's not really funny anymore.

World's oldest stone bracelet


As reported by Archaeology:
A stone bracelet unearthed in Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia in 2008 is being called the oldest-known jewelry of its kind. Anatoly Derevyanko, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, and the research team believe that the cave’s Denisovan layers were uncontaminated by human activity from a later period. The soil around the two fragments of the jewelry piece was dated with oxygen isotopic analysis to 40,000 years ago.
Further details in The Siberian Times:
The ancient master was skilled in techniques previously considered not characteristic for the Palaeolithic era, such as drilling with an implement, boring tool type rasp, grinding and polishing with a leather and skins of varying degrees of tanning.'.. Initially we thought that it was made by Neanderthals or modern humans, but it turned out that the master was Denisovan, at least in our opinion."
I can't resist adding a photo of Denisova Cave:


What a magnificent place to live in prehistoric times.  It's not surprising that it would have been occupied for tens of thousands of years.

Normal person vs. scientist

xkcd is here.

The "National Popular Vote" vs. the Electoral College



This was new to me:
And, yet, a way out of the electoral chaos is not that far off, thanks to the quiet, wonky National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Though the initiative gets sporadic media coverage, it is hardly general public knowledge. It should be.

The simple compact proposes that states pledge their electoral votes “to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” This rather brilliantly obviates the need for an amendment dumping the Electoral College from the Constitution.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would only take effect when a sufficient number of states sign on such that their combined electoral votes constitute the magic 270 we’ve always needed to elect a president.

So far 165 electoral votes from 11 states have been secured. Of the remaining 105 required, 82 are seriously in play, having passed at least one legislative chamber in 10 states. Optimistically, we’re 23 new electoral votes away from ridding ourselves of the Electoral College...
More at Salon.  And of course the relevant Wikipedia page on the Electoral College.

I've embedded a map that shows the enormous divide that occurs between "swing states" and "safe states" during presidential elections. "These maps show the amount of attention given to each state by the Bush and Kerry campaigns during the final five weeks of the 2004 election. At the top, each waving hand represents a visit from a presidential or vice presidential candidate during the final five weeks. At the bottom, each dollar sign represents one million dollars spent on TV advertising by the campaigns during the same time period."

Addendum:  For an extensive informed commentary on this subject, see the comments for this post written by reader "toto."

History repeats itself


(The original quote is from George Santayana).

Via Jobsanger

Awake during surgery. On purpose.

From a report in the Wisconsin State Journal:
More doctors are letting patients remain alert during certain surgeries, for logistical, financial and medical reasons. It's a national trend playing out in Madison...

Many patients getting hand or arm surgeries, knee or hip procedures and even some breast and urological operations have started receiving regional or local numbing shots instead of general anesthesia. That can mean a quicker recovery, less cost and fewer side effects...

A small, but growing, fraction of patients is choosing to stay completely awake, with no sedation. They're joining two groups that have long remained conscious during surgery: many women delivering babies through Cesarean sections; and certain brain patients, such as those receiving deep brain stimulation, who must be able to communicate with doctors during their procedures...

Another obstacle the study identified: Surgeons said it's more difficult to teach residents — doctors in training after medical school — if patients are awake. Plus, some patients don't like knowing that residents are participating in their procedures.

The tops of these two tables are the same shape


They are both parallelograms with identical lengths, widths, and angles.  I enhanced the illusion by referring to them as tables, but they really are identical.

You won't believe me.  You'll need to view the graphic at Digg, or read about the Shepard tabletop illusion.

15 May 2017

Happy Mother's Day


It was a happy day for the American robin who built her nest under our screen porch.  For several years we've had a robin nesting under the deck, but this year another one found an unused rain barrel under the screen porch and constructed her nest (conveniently for us) at waist-high level.

Each time I've gone to the back yard for garden chores, the mother robin has left her nest and flown to a nearby tree to chirp loudly (presumably to distract me from the nest).  This morning she flew away but landed on the grass about 10-12 feet away from me and was very loud, so I looked in and saw the first egg had hatched.  I returned later in the afternoon and found the second chick had emerged.  (I could see the nest from a downstairs window, so I didn't go out and disturb her for a final photo.)

I'll return for another photo after the chicks are fledged.

13 May 2017

"Includes hot lunch"

From the "Tuition and Financial Aid" page for Sidwell Friends school in Washington, D.C.:

Middle and Upper Schools $40,840 (includes hot lunch) 

Per year...

Addendum:   After I originally posted this (brief) item, several readers have commented with queries about why this matter caught my eye, so I thought I'd elaborate a little more with an addendum.  The topic came up because of a news story about the young Trump's school tuition (the data I pulled for the above was for the school that Obama's children attended).  And the "includes hot lunch" clarification struck me as a curious item to specify - sort of like "buy this Maserati and get a free tank of gas."

But the general topic of the enormous cost of private education has been on my mind intermittently for quite a while.  Several years ago I helped several classmates as we planned our 50th high school reunion (yes, I'm that old...).  Fiftieth reunions are memoryfests for returning students, but for the schools they are major foci for fundraising.  As we prepared our reunion program, I was gobsmacked to see the current tuition, and I took the opportunity to pull some historic data from the school, then graphed it against the Consumer Price Index.  The results were startling:


I attended this school in the suburbs of Minneapolis in the 1960s, when the tuition was a bit under $1,000 per year, which was a stress for my parents, but one they considered appropriate and necessary.  When I prepared the graph, the most recent data were from 2012: $22,850 for sixth form (senior year) - a 24-fold increase from my tuition.  A quick Google today shows the 2016 data (one more box to the right) to be $25K for kindergarten and $30,000 for senior year [and I note with some bemusement that the webpage specifies "includes lunch" !!]

The school is of course way different nowadays from the school I knew.  In those days it was a "college preparatory (day)school," with a focus on rigorous academic training.   I think my class of 54 students had probably 12-15 National Merit finalists, and 800 scores on college boards were not unusual. But the only student of color was the foreign exchange student, and there were no girls.

Now it's different - the student body reflects "Diversity of race, ethnicity, national origin, geography, religion, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, age, physical ability, and marital, parental or economic status..."  The mission: "Students are expected to participate in an integrated program of academic, artistic and athletic activities in preparation for college, lifelong learning, community service and lives as responsible world citizens."

The current crop of students are preparing to enter a world different from the one I grew up in in the 1970s., so I don't expect their curriculum to include three years of Latin.  But what still strikes me is that tuition graph.  Financial assistance is offered in order to attract the proper mix of students.

But I can't understand why the graph departs so exponentially from the consumer price index.

Talk radio host to become USDA's "top scientist"


You can't make this stuff up.  At least I couldn't.  Maybe Neil Gaiman can...
The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television...

Catherine Woteki, who served as undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama administration, compared the move to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health. The USDA post includes overseeing scientific integrity within the agency.

This position is the chief scientist of the Department of Agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there,” she said in an interview...
More at Pro Publica.  Image via Jobsanger.

I'll close the comments on this one; there is no possible counterargument.

09 May 2017

From the credits for Fargo (1996 movie)


I remember seeing this symbol in the rolling credits at the end of the movie, and like many others I wondered if Prince had been involved in a cameo or as a joke.
For years, it was a source of mystery, with Fargo's cult following not 100% sure if Prince was actually in the film, but The Huffington Post caught up with the film's main villain—Gaear Grimsrud, a.k.a. actor Peter Stormare—and he laid the full story out. As Stormare tells it, Prince and the Coen brothers are actually friends, primarily because they are all from Minnesota. Apparently Prince wanted to have a small role (what would seem to be a dead victim laying in a field) in the film, but was ultimately unable to do it. The symbol was thrown in, with a smile, seemingly to add mystique to the entire Prince/Warner Bros. situation, but the rumor of Prince actually being in the film grew into a wild piece of lore.
And note there is a tiny smiley face inside the symbol.

House of Cards faces competition from real life


From the archives of The New Yorker.

St. Catherine University - M.I.A.C. women's golf champions 2016 - UPDATED


Kudos to the women's golf team at St. Catherine University in Minnesota - newly crowned champions of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
COON RAPIDS, Minn. -- In just six years, the St. Catherine University women's golf program has gone from its infant stages, all the way to conference champions.

The Wildcats completed their incredible ascension up the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) standings by winning the 2016 championship – and the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships – Monday at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids, Minn. St. Kate's held off a furious charge from Carleton, as the Knights jumped from fifth to second on Sunday, and actually took the lead on Monday's back nine, but the Wildcats regained the lead and held on for their historic win. St. Catherine shot a 319 both Saturday and Monday sandwiched around a 311 on Sunday, with a  three-day, 54-hole total of 949 [average of 79/round] to claim the title.

The Wildcats first appeared in the MIAC Championships in 2011, and finished either ninth or 10th over their first three seasons, but the last three – culminating in the 2016 title – has shown rapid improvement. The team ascended to sixth in 2014, leapt to third in 2015 and hoisted their first-ever MIAC title in the sport Monday.
Finally - and arguably even more impressive - I would note that in July, these young ladies were recognized as a top-25 academic team nationally:
The Wildcats were named one of the top academic teams in the NCAA with a cumulative team grade point average (GPA) of 3.699 during the 2015-16 season, the WGCA announced Wednesday afternoon.

St. Kate's was tied for 18th in the WGCA's list of the top-25 team GPA's in women's golf. The list included teams from Divisions I, II, and III as well as programs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).  St. Kate's was tied with Yale University at No. 18 and was the highest ranked team from Minnesota. More impressively, the Wildcats were one of only two Division III teams represented on the list, the other being Mount Holyoke College with the No. 22 team GPA in the country.
Left-to-right in the photo (which I think is way better than the staid official one at the team's website) (this one via Instagram): Sydney Busker, Taylor Krouse, Kaitlyn Alvarez, Madi Roe, and Abby Conzemius.  Not in the photo: Nicole Traxler, Maddie Weinman, and coach Mary Sweeney.


Updated from October because today the team begins its participation in the NCAA Division III Championships.   The tournament is taking place at Bay Oaks Country Club in Houston Texas (layout here); this will be a 72-hole tournament, with a cut after the third round.  Twenty-two college and university teams (and a number of individuals) have been invited (participating schools listed here).  St. Catherine has been seeded in the #10 position.

I'm reposting this to provide links for family members who want to follow Kaitlyn's progress over the next several days.  Golfstat is providing live internet coverage:

Use this link to view the TEAM leaderboard (click on team name to see individual players' scores).

Use this link to access the PLAYER leaderboard (click on the player's name to see her scorecard).
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