21 November 2017

Etruscan statue

“Evening shadow”. Etruscan statue, 3rd c. BC, Volterra. The name is from Gabriele d’Annunzio

Via Poemas del rio Wang.

Alexa commands

Cnet has a (momentarily) complete list of Alexa commands.
The list of Alexa commands is expansive and grows with every new service or device it supports. Alexa isn't perfect, but it's pretty great at understanding natural language, so you don't always have to speak the commands exactly as you see them below. Many commands work when worded several different ways or even with words omitted.
I also discovered that there is a subreddit dedicated to Amazon Echo, wherein you can find a list of known Easter eggs, including...
  • Alexa, I am your father.
  • Alexa, who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
  • Alexa, what is the loneliest number?
  • Alexa, how many roads must a man walk down?
  • Alexa, all your base are belong to us.
  • Alexa, how much is that doggie in the window?
  • Alexa, romeo, romeo wherefore art thou romeo?
  • Alexa, define rock paper scissors lizard spock
  • Alexa, beam me up.
  • Alexa, how much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
  • Alexa, define supercalifragilisticexpialodocious.
  • Alexa, who’s your daddy?
  • Alexa, Earl Grey. Hot. (or Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.)
  • Alexa, what is the meaning of life?
  • Alexa, what does the Earth weigh?
  • Alexa, when is the end of the world?
  • Alexa, is there a Santa?
  • Alexa, make me a sandwich.
  • Alexa, what is the best tablet?
  • Alexa, what is your favorite color?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, who won best actor Oscar in 1973?
  • Alexa, what is your quest?
  • Alexa, what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Alexa, where do babies come from?
  • Alexa, do you have a boyfriend?
  • Alexa, which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
  • Alexa, may the force be with you.
  • Alexa, do aliens exist?
(more at the link)

Posted for Suzanne up at the lake, with thanks for recommending this device to me.

'Tis the season

In the past we have generally gone out to get our Christmas tree in early December, but after realizing that the trees are cut much earlier than that, we decided this year to go out much sooner.

Yesterday was Monday, November 20.  Our local garden center told us that they had just received their shipment of trees on the weekend (we were their third customer), and that the trees had been harvested here in central Wisconsin three days earlier (Nov 17).

This batch of trees will sit outside for weeks now desiccating in the wind.  We won't put ours up inside the house until early December, but in the meantime it sits in a bucket in the garage soaking up water. 

And as a bonus the garage smells like pine.

Japanese game show

Posted as a reminder to those of us living in the Upper Midwest that winter is just around the corner.

Does anyone recognize this "NL" logo ? (solved)

I found this Zippo lighter while cleaning out an old desk drawer; it presumably is a family heirloom but has no sentimental value for me.  But before disposing of it I thought I'd inquire about that logo on the side.

I presume it's the 15th anniversary of something.  The lighter would have been used by my father in the 1950s-60s, and it likely was given to him by a customer or friend, since he didn't spend money on fancy Zippos.

Does the logo look familiar to anyone?

Addendum: a tip of the hat to reader Gelvan Tullibole 3rd, who found the logo (in Wikipedia no less) associated with NL Industries.

About those towers on the Sears warehouses

I remember the massive Sears building in Minneapolis.  In my childhood it was an iconic structure.  The Atlantic has an article about how such buildings around the country are being repurposed.  One particular item caught my eye:
As a hybrid of store and warehouse, the plants were the physical embodiment of the company’s pivot from rural-focused mail-order catalogues to urban and suburban retail stores...

The plants’ locations also speak to this transitional moment. They were built at what was then the edge of town, adjacent to rail lines. Land was cheap and parking plentiful in these areas, but they were still closer to the urban core than many early car-oriented bedroom communities, says Jerry Hancock, an amateur Sears historian.

Plants were among the largest buildings by square footage in their cities, if not the largest outright. They usually clocked in at a million square feet or more. Their art deco flourishes and iconic “Sears towers”—not to be confused with the company’s eventual headquarters in Chicago—made them local landmarks. (The towers, Hancock explains, were built to hold the plant’s cistern, providing maximum water pressure during break times on the warehouse floor, when hundreds of workers would use the bathroom at the same time.)

More kitchen tips than you can ever remember

"Passing as white"

I'd never seen my mother so afraid.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, “you won’t tell anyone until after I die. How will I hold my head up with my friends?”

For two years, I’d waited for the right moment to confront my mother with the shocking discovery I made in 1995 while scrolling through the 1900 Louisiana census records. In the records, my mother’s father, Azemar Frederic of New Orleans, and his entire family were designated black.
The rest of the story is at The Washington Post.


The best special effects are the ones you don't notice.

19 November 2017


If you heroically browse through the medical manuscripts and loose illustrations of the small shops in the Istanbul book bazaar, you will wander through more circles of hell than Dante...

Islamic dentistry leads back its origins to Mohammad, who instructs the believers in a special hadith to wash their teeth at least twice or thrice a day. He is also referred by the great 10th-century Arabic physician, Ibn Sina or Avicenna, whose famous Al kanun fi al-tibb (The canon of medicine) gives instructions for treating teeth, drilling, pain relief, and fixing dentures with gold wire to the jaw...

The first Ottoman medical manuscripts, Bereket’s Tuhfe-i Mubrizi, Ahmadi’s Tarvih al-ervah and Hacı Paşa’s Müntehab al-şifa, all come from the 14th century, and they also deal with the treatment and anatomy of teeth.
There are numerous illustrations at Poemas del Rio Wang.

iPhone in a 1937 painting - and in an 1860 painting. And 1918.

Image cropped for size from the original at Vice's Motherboard, where the painting is discussed.

Reposted to add this image (cropped for emphasis) from “The Expected One,” an 1860 work by Austrian painter Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller:

Discussed (and explained) at Vice's Motherboard.

Source image for the 1860 painting.

I found this man, texting his friends -

Ivan Vladimirov: On the streets of Petrograd, 1918

- in a post about the October Revolution in Poemas del Rio Wang.


I think the technology shown here is similar to how some golf ball pickers work at driving ranges.  What's really cool is how the collecting chambers are emptied at the end.

Plastics contaminating benthic sea creatures

The photo above shows a translucent arrow worm with a blue plastic fiber in its digestive tract.
The study, led by academics at Newcastle University, found animals from trenches across the Pacific Ocean were contaminated with fibres that probably originated from plastic bottles, packaging and synthetic clothes...

The study tested samples of crustaceans found in the ultra-deep trenches that span the entire Pacific Ocean – the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches. These range from seven to more than 10 kilometres deep, including the deepest point in the ocean, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

The team examined 90 individual animals and found ingestion of plastic ranged from 50% in the New Hebrides Trench to 100% at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
More at The Guardian.  Photo credit: Richard Kirby

Moonlight tower

A moonlight tower or moontower is a lighting structure designed to illuminate areas of a town or city at night. The towers were popular in the late 19th century in cities across the United States and Europe; they were most common in the 1880s and 1890s. In some places they were used when standard street-lighting, using smaller, shorter, and more numerous lamps, was impractically expensive. In other places they were used in addition to gas street lighting. The towers were designed to illuminate areas often of several blocks at once, on the "high light" principle. Arc lamps, known for their exceptionally bright and harsh light, were the most common method of illumination. As incandescent electric street lighting became common, the prevalence of towers began to wane.
Photo of Los Angeles in 1882, via TheWayWeWere subreddit.

17 November 2017

Concierto de Aranjuez (Joaquin Rodrigo)

"Joaquín Rodrigo Vidre, 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez... commonly known as Joaquín Rodrigo, was a Spanish composer and a virtuoso pianist.

Rodrigo was born in Sagunto, Valencia, and completely lost his sight at the age of three after contracting diphtheria. He began to study solfège, piano and violin at the age of eight; harmony and composition from the age of 16. Although distinguished by having raised the Spanish guitar to dignity as a universal concert instrument and best known for his guitar music, he never mastered the instrument himself.  He wrote his compositions in Braille, which was transcribed for publication.

His most famous work, Concierto de Aranjuez, was composed in 1939 in Paris for the guitarist Regino Sainz de la Maza. In later life he and his wife declared that it was written as a response to the miscarriage of their first child. It is a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The central adagio movement is one of the most recognizable in 20th-century classical music, featuring the interplay of guitar with cor anglais. This movement was later adapted by the jazz arranger Gil Evans for Miles Davis' 1960 album "Sketches of Spain".
I first encountered this music in the 1960s on the Miles Davis album.  I'm pleased now to blog the entire concierto.

Posted for my cousin Karl in Barcelona.

"Hora staccato" (Grigoras Dinicu)

I've heard this piece many times, probably as background music, but can't cite any specific examples.

(and I'm always amazed that violinists don't poke each other in the eye...)

15 November 2017

Ummm....no. But good try.


"Midnight Train to Georgia" - Gladys Knight and the Pips

It started out as "The Midnight Plane to Houston," inspired by a chance comment by Farrah Fawcett, who was flying home to visit her parents. The song was first recorded by Cissy Houston, who changed the plane to a train and the destination to Georgia. It then went to Gladys Knight and the Pips, who took it to #1 on the charts in 1973. 

The video above is from a performance at Chicago's Regal Theater (I don't know the year). Personally I prefer this 1973 version, but it can't be embedded. Love those Pips. Lyrics here.

Addendum: A big hat tip to Piper, who knew of a version with the Pips singing their parts without Gladys Knight. This from a 1977 Richard Pryor television show. "Midnight Train to Georgia" is in the second half of the video.

(Originally posted in 2009)

Divertimento #139

This is how the 1% fly.

Why the names on movie posters don't match the pictures above them (video).

More treasures recovered from the antikythera shipwreck (bronze sculptures).  "The bronze recycling industry was huge in classical times and later in the medieval period, leading to the destruction of countless statues and other artefacts that would be priceless today. For this reason, many of the finest specimens of bronze statues that survive were once lost at sea."

Why Blade Runner is called "Blade Runner." (related to an old book about a health-care dystopia)

Here is the IMDb compilation of "movie mistakes" for Blade Runner.

"Twenty-four year old Catt Gallinger’s fun excursion into body art ended in horror when an eye tattoo left her partially blinded and oozing purple tears. The tattoo was meant to have tinted her sclera, the white part of her eye, but instead went terribly wrong, causing pain and possible permanent impairment." (photos at the link)

Laundry symbols explained.

Photo of a crocodile inside its amniotic sac.

Santa Claus's tomb discovered.

Brief video of the disposal of the carcass of an immense leatherback sea turtle.  (Football fans should scroll down to see the trick play for a touchdown in the Akron-Ohio game, for a reminder that defenses almost never assign anyone to cover the quarterback.)

"...the CEOs of the biggest US companies, whose average pension benefit is $253,088/month..."

A nomination for the most confusing person to sing "Happy Birthday" to.

Handy tip for the cold and flu season.

"The deadly tsunami that struck north-east Japan in 2011 has carried almost 300 species of sea life thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the United States.  In what experts are calling the longest maritime migration ever recorded, an estimated one million creatures – including crustaceans, sea slugs and sea worms – made the 4,800-mile (7,725km) journey on a flotilla of tsunami debris."

A gift for the person who has everthing: a headless robotic cat.

An intersting NDR documentary film about the German tree-farming industry (auf Deutsch).

Showerthought: "If the media stopped saying "hacking" and instead said "figured out their password", people would probably take password security a lot more seriously."

The Swedes call it "deathcleaning."  (They actually call it "döstädning.") It's what I'm doing right now in my real life.  More on the topic in this longer article.

A proposed redesign for the Green Bay Packers logo.

"Republican Georgia state Sen. Michael Williams is holding a giveaway for a bump stock — the same type of device law enforcement officials say the Vegas shooter used to kill over 50 people during a concert in early October." (citing the claim that bump stocks save lives by introducing inaccuracy in the weapon)

Tantalizing tidbits from the Blue Planet II series.

A headline for our times: "Exclusive: Neo-Nazi and National Front organiser quits movement, opens up about Jewish heritage, comes out as gay." (true, apparently)

Do NOT try to vacuum up spilled printer ink.

"British Airways has apologised to a Canadian family after they were bitten by bed bugs on a transatlantic flight between Vancouver and London.  Heather Szilagyi, her seven-year-old daughter, Molly, and her fiance, Eric Neilson, were left covered with painful insect bites while travelling from Canada to Slovakia this month... Szilagyi said she had first noticed the bed bugs on the seat in front of her, then spotted another crawling out from behind a TV monitor. “I wanted to grab it but they’re quick and it crawled back inside, behind the screen,” she told the Canadian broadcaster CTV."

"Nearly every country on Earth is named after one of these four things."

Lake Baikal now getting trashed (with pollution, poaching).

The story of Terry Fox and the Marathon of Hope.

"A University of Minnesota graduate student who accused a colleague of sexual harassment was awarded just one dollar in March, but her lawyers will get... $305,000 in fees..."

Icelanders are attempting to reestablish their country's aboriginal forests.  "When Iceland was first settled at the end of the ninth century, much of the land on or near the coast was covered in birch woodlands... By most accounts, the island was largely deforested within three centuries."

Travelers should beware of cons involving "voluntourism." "Voluntourism is a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity: think building houses in Haiti; working in an orphanage in Thailand; or teaching English in India."

Solar power is transforming Mongolia: "Far more ubiquitous than mobile phones are solar LEDs. Every ger has its panels and batteries. The panel (usually one) is simple, tied to a pole, which can be rotated by hand every now and then to follow the sun. It will power a single LED light bulb, perhaps charge a phone and a shortwave radio. Less commonly it will power a TV with a satellite dish. Having a cheap, steady light all night makes a huge difference: It extends evenings, makes cooking more convenient, and reduces toxic smoke in the home. I did not see a ger without solar."

Clever replacement for a lazy susan cabinet.

If you are posting photographs of anything that is rare or protected - something that others might want to poach - ""Turn off anything that transmits location before you visit it," he said. "Make sure the GPS-embedding is off on your camera. And be careful."

Unity Valkyrie Freeman-Mitford (amazing name) was conceived in the town of Swastika and became BFF with Churchill and Hitler.

Here's something you can create to embarrass your child for the rest of their life.

Art made of only Q-tips.

"On October 27th, 2007, Trinity found themselves down 2 points with 2 seconds left on their own 40 yard line. And then they put together an miraculous set of laterals to score the winning touchdown against Millsaps." (15 laterals)

A wristband developed for blind and visually-impaired people can enhance echolocation abilities.

Raptors can perch safely on power polesm, but not if they are carrying a long snake.

"Stan" has become a verb.

Tongue in cheek: "the worst fire escape ever."

An extensive discussion of the theories about the unusual death of Edgar Allan Poe.  Also here.

Today's embedded images are selections from a large gallery of color photos of the 1939 World's Fair assembled at The Atlantic.  Credit: Peter Campbell / Corbis via Getty.

This is a terrible name for a product

Posted for the amusement of my cousin Kathy in SLC.


In the cheese shop...

Customer: Cheshire?

Wenslydale: No.

Customer: Dorset Bluveny?

Wenslydale: No.

Customer: Brie, Roquefort, Pol le Veq, Port Salut, Savoy Aire, Saint Paulin, Carrier de lest, Bres Bleu, Bruson?

Wenslydale: No.

Customer: Camenbert, perhaps?

Wenslydale: Ah! We have Camenbert, yessir.

Customer: (surprised) You do! Excellent.

Wenslydale: Yessir. It's..ah,.....it's a bit runny...

Customer: Oh, I like it runny.

Wenslydale: Well,.. It's very runny, actually, sir.

Customer: No matter. Fetch hither the fromage de la Belle France! Mmmwah!

Wenslydale: I...think it's a bit runnier than you'll like it, sir.

Customer: I don't care how fucking runny it is. Hand it over with all speed.

Wenslydale: Oooooooooohhh........!

Customer: What now?

Wenslydale: The cat's eaten it.

Recognizable to all Monty Python fans as an exchange from the Cheese Shop Sketch (first aired November 1972). You can access the text of Monty Python's Flying Circus sketches HERE and HERE. Never know when you might need to get an exact quote from the Spanish Inquisition, or the Argument Clinic, or Anne Elk's Theory of Brontosauruses...

Reposted from 2008 (! this blog is getting old) to add the complete video, which wasn't available to link to back in the old days:

12 November 2017


Fatwood, also known as "fat lighter,"... "pine knot," "lighter knot," "heart pine"... is derived from the heartwood of pine trees. This resin-impregnated heartwood becomes hard and rot-resistant. The stump (and tap root) left in the ground after a tree has fallen or has been cut is an excellent source of fatwood. Other locations, such as the joints where limbs intersect the trunk, can also be harvested...

Because of the flammability of terpene, fatwood is prized for use as kindling in starting fires. It lights quickly even when wet, is very wind resistant, and burns hot enough to light larger pieces of wood. A small piece of fatwood can be used many times to create tinder by shaving small curls and using them to light other larger tinder. The pitch-soaked wood produces an oily, sooty smoke, and it is recommended that one should not cook on a fire until all the fatwood has completely burned out.

Heartwood (or duramen) is wood that as a result of a naturally occurring chemical transformation has become more resistant to decay. Heartwood formation is a genetically programmed process that occurs spontaneously... Heartwood is often visually distinct from the living sapwood, and can be distinguished in a cross-section where the boundary will tend to follow the growth rings...

Sapwood (or alburnum) is the younger, outermost wood; in the growing tree it is living wood, and its principal functions are to conduct water from the roots to the leaves and to store up and give back according to the season the reserves prepared in the leaves. However, by the time they become competent to conduct water, all xylem tracheids and vessels have lost their cytoplasm and the cells are therefore functionally dead. All wood in a tree is first formed as sapwood. The more leaves a tree bears and the more vigorous its growth, the larger the volume of sapwood required.
One of the pleasant memories of my childhood in Minnesota is of searching through the woods with my mother looking for pine knots to put in the fireplace.  We used them to add a pleasant odor to the cabin, not for kindling per se.

Lots more things you wouldn't know at the heartwood link.

Photo (cropped for size) via the Mildly Interesting subreddit.

Trailer for "The Post"

"Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents. The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light."
One wonders what impact the current Paradise Papers revelation will have compared to the Pentagon Papers.

Equifax sells your salary history

As reported by NBC News:
The Equifax credit reporting agency, with the aid of thousands of human resource departments around the country, has assembled what may be the most powerful and thorough private database of Americans’ personal information ever created, containing 190 million employment and salary records covering more than one-third of U.S. adults.

Some of the information in the little-known database, created through an Equifax-owned company called The Work Number, is sold to debt collectors, financial service companies and other entities...

But salary information is also for sale by Equifax through The Work Number. Its database is so detailed that it contains week-by-week paystub information dating back years for many individuals, as well as other kinds of human resources-related information, such as health care provider, whether someone has dental insurance and if they’ve ever filed an unemployment claim...

How does Equifax obtain this sensitive and secret information? With the willing aid of thousands of U.S. businesses, including many of the Fortune 500. Government agencies -- representing 85 percent of the federal civilian population, including workers at the Department of Defense, according to Equifax -- and schools also work with The Work Number..
That was from an article published in 2013.  I naively assumed that the situation might have changed by now.   Nope.  CNN writes "Why Equifax will continue to profit by selling your personal information":
"But it's not in the interest of lenders to stop sharing information with the credit rating agencies, Horn said. It could hurt the accuracy of the credit reports they buy back."

Impressive "dead spot" on a tennis court

The original video of the televised 2011 tennis match is here.  The science was discussed on All Things Considered.

Carfentanil - "A dose as small as a grain of sand can kill you"

From a report in The Guardian:
Developed in the 1970s as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants and bears, the synthetic opioid has also been studied as a potential chemical weapon by countries including the US, China and Israel. It is thought to have been deployed with disastrous effects when Russian special forces attempted to rescue hundreds of hostages from a Moscow theatre in 2002.

But it only burst into public view last year after officials across North America began to warn that it was being cut with heroin and other illicit drugs, leaving a rash of overdoses and deaths in its wake.
“An amount as small as a grain of sand can kill you,” Dr Karen Grimsrud, Alberta’s chief medical officer, told reporters after traces of carfentanil were found in the bodies of two men who had overdosed. “Carfentanil is about 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and about 10,000 times more toxic than morphine.”..

The remarks came after Canadian police – protected by hazmat suits and oxygen containers – seized one kilogram of carfentanil hidden inside cartridges labelled as printer ink and which had been shipped to Vancouver from China.

Given the purity of the substance seized, police estimated that the package could contain as many as 50m lethal doses – enough to wipe out the entire population of the country.
Scary.  And I bet it's not hard to synthesize.  Could be aerosolized via drones in a city or at a stadium.

Adaptive glasses for colorblind people

There are several compilation videos of people receiving Enchroma glasses and seeing color for the first time (here, here, and in their sidebars).

If you know someone who is colorblind who doesn't have these glasses - what are you waiting for?

MIT Technology Review explains how the glasses work.  I didn't even know they existed.  You learn something every day. 

Addendum from reader Drabkikker: Being colorblind typically does not mean you see everything in black and white, but rather that certain colors appear the same to you. What these glasses do is reduce the overlap between those colors, allowing you to distinguish them better.

10 November 2017

Rope art

The artist is Janaina Mello Landini

WWII shipwrecks are disappearing

Reports of this have been appearing for several years, but The Guardian has just compiled a longread with excellent illustrations:
Dozens of warships believed to contain the remains of thousands of British, American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese servicemen from the second world war have been illegally ripped apart by salvage divers, the Guardian can reveal.

An analysis of ships discovered by wreck divers and naval historians has found that up to 40 second world war-era vessels have already been partially or completely destroyed. Their hulls might have contained the corpses of 4,500 crew...

The rusted 70-year-old wrecks are usually sold as scrap but the ships also contain valuable metals such as copper cables and phosphor bronze propellors.

Large “crane barges” have been photographed above wreck sites, often with huge amounts of rusted steel on their decks. At the seabed, divers have found ships cut in half. Many have been removed completely, leaving a ship-shaped indent.

Cambodian, Chinese and Malaysian-registered vessels have been spotted above shipwrecks. In some cases, their crews have been arrested. In one case, the looters had acquired a letter from a Malaysian university which said the work was authorised as “research”...

Archeologists believe the criminals might be turning a profit because the hulls are one of the world’s few remaining deposits of “low-background” metals. Having been made before atomic bomb explosions in 1945 and subsequent nuclear tests, the steel is free of radiation. This makes even small quantities that have survived the saltwater extremely useful for finely calibrated instruments such as Geiger counters, space sensors and medical imaging.
Some ancient ships, often centuries-old Roman vessels in European waters, have also been salvaged for their lead, which is also low-radiation and is used in nuclear power stations.

Why did my phone think I was in Mongolia ?

I took a rather poor panorama shot in the north woods of Minnesota.  Just before deleting it, I noticed the location information. 

It's possible I stepped through a wormhole, but I suspect there's a more rational explanation.

Buenos Aires bookstore

"...Buenos Aires has more bookshops per inhabitant than any other city in the world, according to a recent study by the World Cities Culture Forum.

With a population of around 2.8 million, Buenos Aires has at least 734 bookstores – roughly 25 bookshops for every 100,000 inhabitants. Worldwide, only Hong Kong comes close, with 22 bookshops per 100,000, followed by Madrid in a distant third with just 16 and compared to a mere 10 bookshops for every 100,000 for London...

...opened as a theatre in 1919 and converted into a giant bookstore 15 years ago, the Grand Splendid still boasts the beautiful ceiling frescoes painted by an Italian artist almost a century ago. Around 1 million customers visit it each year to browse through its gargantuan 21,000 square feet showroom, or withdraw into one of the old theatre boxes perched for a leisurely read."
More pix of the bookstore.

"History of art rewritten"

"The history of art has been rewritten after archeologists unearthed an astonishing 3,500 year old carving of an ancient Greek battle, depicting human bodies in anatomical detail which was thought way beyond the skill of Bronze Age artisans.

In 2015, the tomb of the so-called ‘Griffin Warrior’ was discovered near the ancient city of Pylos, southwest Greece, containing the remains of a powerful Myceneaen warrior and a treasure trove of burial riches...

The seal, named the ‘Pylos Combat Agate’ has been hailed as one of the finest works of prehistoric Greek art ever discovered and may depict the mythological war between the Trojans and Mycenaeans, which was told in Homer’s Iliad hundreds of years later.

“What is fascinating is that the representation of the human body is at a level of detail and musculature that one doesn’t find again until the classical period of Greek art 1,000 years later."..

Researchers are baffled as to how ancient craftsmen were able to create the minute scene without microscopes.

“Some of the details on this are only a half-millimeter big,” added Prof Davis. “They’re incomprehensibly small.
More details at The Telegraph.

"We’ve got people in charge of important shit who don’t believe in science"

Actor Harrison Ford took a swipe at Washington on Thursday night, blasting lawmakers and leaders who deny climate change.

During a speech to the environmental group Conservation International in Culver City, Calif., where he was receiving an award, Ford said the biggest threat to the United States is leaders that don't understand or accept evidence that human activity is driving rapid climate change.

"We face an unprecedented moment in this country. Today’s greatest threat is not climate change, not pollution, not flood or fire," Ford said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "It’s that we’ve got people in charge of important shit who don’t believe in science."
 Ford, an outspoken and longtime advocate for environmental causes, cast the threat posed by climate change as a dire one in his speech, arguing that unless it is addressed quickly, "nothing else will matter."
More at The Hill.

School daze

From Real Life Adventures.

Maps of the world's forests

Found at EarthArtAustralia, which also has maps of waterways and other physical features.

Screencap from local news

Interesting juxtaposition of stories.  ("OWI" is "operating while intoxicated.")  Reports of people with 5 or 10 OWI offenses are not uncommon. 

Via the Madison, WI subreddit.

08 November 2017

Bookmobile, Jefferson County Texas, 1935

From the Foodporn, historyporn, earthporn tumblr, via Ego is a rat on the sinking ship of being.

Unread books

"Knowing a book’s relationship to other books often means you know more about it than you do on actually reading it... we also forget a very large percentage of the books we have actually read, and indeed we build a sort of virtual picture of them that consists not so much of what they say but what they have conjured up in our mind. So that if someone who hasn’t read a book cites nonexistent passages or situations from it, we are ready to believe that they are in the book..."
Excerpted from an essay by Umberto Eco at The Paris Review (in turn excerpted from Chronicles of a Liquid Society).

Photo: The Oberlausitzische Library Of Science (Gorlitz, Germany).

"You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary."
From Brain Pickings, again citing Umberto Eco.

 Image from Lost in Translation, via Brain Pickings.

4.5 megabytes of data

Stored on 62,500 punched cards (1955).

"War... what is it good for?"

"Ruins of the Benedictine monastery, during the Battle of Monte Cassino; Italian Campaign, May 1944"
From Historium.  Re the title of the post.

"We just wanna talk"

From Facebook, via Replaces and cancels the previous Johnnythehorse.

"Three Billboards"

Trigger warning: violence, profanity.

Discussed at The Guardian.

06 November 2017

"No way to prevent this"

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens 
SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, TX—In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed 27 individuals and seriously injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Sunday 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 Kansas resident Britt Mulvanos, 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.” 
Reposted in its entirety from The Onion, which has been reposting this same story repeatedly after mass killings since 2014, changing only names and dates.

Donald Trump's opinion:  "“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn’t a guns situation … we could go into it but it’s a little bit soon to go into it. Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was, it would have been much worse.

I'll close the comments here.  If you have comments, please forward them to your congressman.

In February, just weeks into his presidency, Trump signed a bill eliminating an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. The rule, which had been finalized in December 2016, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background gun-check database. Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to the database.

The National Rifle Association applauded Trump for signing the bill. Chris Cox, the group's chief lobbyist, said at the time that it marked "a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.”

04 November 2017

The Adventures of Pinocchio

My only prior knowledge of Pinocchio came through the 1940 Disney movie.  The book on which that movie was based is The Adventures of Pinocchio, written in the 1880s by Italian author Carlo Collodi.
According to extensive research done by the Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi in late 1990s and based on UNESCO sources, it has been adapted in over 260 languages worldwide. That makes it the most translated non-religious book in the world, and one of the best-selling books ever published. According to Francelia Butler, it remains "the most widely read book in the world after the Bible". 
I was delighted recently to locate a 2005 edition published by The Creative Company.  Nobody will be surprised to learn that the 19th century text differs from the Disney version.  Collodi's Pinocchio encounters assassins who hang him (top image) when they are unable to stab his wooden body with their "long, horrid" knives (he's rescued by a blue fairy who lives in the distant house).

And he does meet a talking cricket, but after being reprimanded for his behavior, he grabs a wooden mallet and squishes the cricket:

After one rebellious episode, Pinocchio returns home exhausted and rests his muddy feet on the cookstove. 
"Then he fell asleep.  And while he slept, his feet, which were wooden, caught fire, and little by little they burned away."

That's probably not in Disney, nor is the fact that Geppetto is hauled off to prison for child abuse for reprimanding Pinocchio.  And I don't remember in the Disney version Pinocchio biting off the hand of one of the assassins who attack him.

The book is an easy read for an adult - you can finish it in one sitting, but if you're going to read it to a child at bedtime or rainy-day storytime, it would need to be spread out over several sessions.

There are of course countless printings of this original story, many of which are available fulltext online.  The strength of this particular edition is the artwork of illustrator Roberto Innocenti.

I've embedded several sample images, but there are also multiple two-page spreads depicting Italian village scenes and the engulfment by the whale/shark.  This Creative Company version is a visual treat.  I'm now looking for several other publication of theirs featuring the same illustrator (Cinderella, Rose Blanche, and four others).

(And I've written to them to inquire about the unusual typography on the front cover)

03 November 2017

Divertimento #138

Cleft lip dog ("Clefford") rescued and repaired.

Man arrested and put in jail for spending $2 bills.

"...giant salvinia, an aquatic fern capable of doubling its biomass in mere days. Scientists call it the world’s worst weed."

Scott Adams is reportedly a climate change skeptic.  This Dilbert cartoon expresses that view. 

"A Staffordshire bull terrier that killed its owner by crushing his larynx in its jaws in front of a BBC documentary crew had probably taken crack cocaine."

"...during the past 106 years, over 800 feature films received support from the Department of Defense."

"The study, published in JAMA Dermatology this week, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women, 84 percent of whom reported engaging in some form of pubic hair removal by scissor, razor, wax, tweezer, depilatory cream, laser, or electrolysis."

The history of corduroy begins in Egypt with the creation of fustian.

Wired offers a requiem to the iPhone's home button.

"Steve Wilhite created the Graphics Interchange Format, or GIF, while working for Compuserve in 1987. On Tuesday, he received a Webby Award for it and delivered his five-word acceptance speech... "It's pronounced JIF, not GIF.""

Things you didn't know about papercuts.

The CEO of Dunkin' Donuts says a $15 minimum wage is "outrageous."  He makes $4,889 per hour.

"In the depths of the ocean, life can extend far beyond its usual limits. Take the tube worm Escarpia laminata: living in an environment with a year-round abundance of food and no predators, individuals seem to live for over 300 years. And some may be 1000 years old or more – meaning they would have been around when William the Conqueror invaded England..."

California has reinstituted a ban on foie gras.

Photograph an "empty" city (or tourist destination) by stacking and compositing multiple images.

"The men are among the thousands of detectorists across eastern Europe hunting for relics of the Red Army, the Third Reich and Imperial Russia. Beneath ploughed field and remote woodland is buried treasure from a turbulent, vanishing past. Even today, the war dead lie in these lands. Sometimes bodies are found."

Common mistakes people make when charging their iPhones.

Carcass of an elk pinned to a tree by an avalanche (a discussion thread suggested that the skull was replaced manually or digitally for the photo, but still impressive).

The second Blade Runner 2048 prequel short.

A man caught on video (and subsequently jailed) for dumping his dog.  Here's the rescue video.

A functional fishwheel on the Yukon river.

Railroad worker does not get squished.

Bounty hunters captured the wrong woman.  A jury awarded her $950,000.

Whether or not modern teenagers are having less sex depends on how you phrase the question.

T shirt demonstrates that "intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

Amazing carved hobo nickel.

Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins bunted, resulting in a "Little League Home Run."

The difference between a "Broadway show" and an "off-Broadway show" does not depend on the location where it is performed.

"Octlantis" is an octopus "city" - never before documented.

Consumer Reports advice re the Equifax breach.  Also here.

Fake demonizing of liberals documented.

"Protesters banned at Jeff Sessions' lecture on free speech."

Showerthought:  "Charging $99 for a $15 case of water is considered price gauging, but charging $800 for an $8 bag of saline is considered “Healthcare.”"

Today's embedded photos depict child labor in the U.S. at the turn of the last century.  From a gallery of over 30 images by Lewis Hine, assembled at Flashbak, where captions explain the content.
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