24 July 2017

Elaborately wrapped Egyptian mummy

Image source.

Potential trouble for Europe

MADRID—The arsenal is a terrorist’s dream: 150 live hand grenades, 44 rocket propelled grenades, 1,450 9mm cartridges, 18 tear gas grenades, scores of triggers and detonators of various kinds, 102 explosive charges, and 264 blocks of plastic explosive. Such is the inventory of deadly materiel that was stolen from a military installation in Portugal on June 28 and is still missing. Then, two days after that robbery, a van loaded with nitroglycerin was robbed in Barcelona, Spain. Those explosives have not been recovered either. European authorities are worried, to say the least. These are not the unstable homemade munitions used in many recent terrorist attacks, they are military-grade. But precisely who took them, and for whom, remains a mystery...

In the June 28 incident, more than a dozen thieves stormed the military armory of Tancos, located about 100 miles from Lisbon...

The controversy in Portugal has caused a political tsunami, because the theft has brought to light the lamentable security measures of the Tancos base: The video surveillance system was damaged five years ago and had not been repaired, the motion sensors do not work, the wire fencing is vulnerable to a good pair of scissors, and the 25 watchtowers are in such bad shape soldiers don’t dare to climb them.
For fox ache.  More details at The Daily Beast.

Respiratory passages in the wings of dragonflies

From a report in Science News:
Rhainer Guillermo Ferreira was so jolted by a scanning electron microscope image showing what looked like skinny, branching tracheal tubes in a morpho wing that he called in another entomologist for a second opinion. Guillermo Ferreira, then at Kiel University in Germany, showed the image to a colleague who also was “shocked,” he remembers. A third entomologist was called in. Shock all around...

In the tough inner layers, male Z. lanei wings form nanoscale spheres sandwiched between blankets of black pigment–filled nanolayers. This setup can enhance reflections of blue light and muddle other wavelengths.
Here's a scanning EM of the wing:

 The article is here.

Dealing with North Korea

The best piece I have ever read about the North Korea situation is an article by Mark Bowden in the most recent edition of The Atlantic.
As tensions flared in recent months, fanned by bluster from both Washington and Pyongyang, I talked with a number of national-security experts and military officers who have wrestled with the problem for years, and who have held responsibility to plan and prepare for real conflict. Among those I spoke with were former officials from the White House, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon; military officers who have commanded forces in the region; and academic experts.
From these conversations, I learned that the U.S. has four broad strategic options for dealing with North Korea and its burgeoning nuclear program.

1. Prevention: A crushing U.S. military strike to eliminate Pyongyang’s arsenals of mass destruction, take out its leadership, and destroy its military. It would end North Korea’s standoff with the United States and South Korea, as well as the Kim dynasty, once and for all.

2. Turning the screws: A limited conventional military attack—or more likely a continuing series of such attacks—using aerial and naval assets, and possibly including narrowly targeted Special Forces operations. These would have to be punishing enough to significantly damage North Korea’s capability—but small enough to avoid being perceived as the beginning of a preventive strike. The goal would be to leave Kim Jong Un in power, but force him to abandon his pursuit of nuclear ICBMs.

3. Decapitation: Removing Kim and his inner circle, most likely by assassination, and replacing the leadership with a more moderate regime willing to open North Korea to the rest of the world.

4. Acceptance: The hardest pill to swallow—acquiescing to Kim’s developing the weapons he wants, while continuing efforts to contain his ambition.

Let’s consider each option. All of them are bad.
If the topic interests you and you would like to be able to discuss/debate the alternatives intelligently with friends, the article is essential background reading.  For starters, pick one of the four options above that you would tentatively favor, then read the pros and cons of that choice.

Stereotypical millennial

Via Neatorama.

22 July 2017

This is a "horse walk door"

"The horse walk door is the brown one to the left at this house at 7 Leroy Street, a Federal-style beauty built in 1831.

Behind this door is the horse walk, a narrow passageway through which a homeowner’s horse was led from the street to a separate carriage house or stable behind the main house."
Photo and text from Ephemeral New York, where it is noted that the carriage house accessible through door 7 1/2 is available for $16,000.  Per month.

Via a Neatorama post listing "Relics From The Horse-Powered City That Are Still Around."

"Bladerunner 2049" - updated

"Stunning visual environments" is an understatement.  I suggest clicking the fullscreen icon for this one.  This is a "making of" video, not a trailer.

Reposted to add the new official trailer for the movie:

Hans Rosling clarifies world demographics

I have featured Hans Rosling on a number of previous posts at TYWKIWDBI because I truly admire his style of presentation.  The best hours of my academic life were spent behind or beside the podium in front of an classroom full of students, so I'm supersensitive to the nuances of lecturing.  This guy has all the skills.  He is recognized as a wizard at portraying otherwise-dry statistics in comprehensible visual forms (see his superb TED talk on the developing world).  In addition his stage presence is captivating, and his use of English (as a second language) is excellent.

I'm not blogging today, but I wanted to put this up for you.  I know everyone's life these days is one continuous TL;DR, but take my word for it, if you are interested in the world beyond your doorstep, this video is worth 15 minutes of your time.  Or at least the first five, and then see if you can stop.

Reposted from 2015 to cleanse my mind.  A lifelong (60+ year) best friend emailed me a link to a Mark Steyn video, identifying it as "the biggest story of the year."  The video began by deploring the childlessness of European leaders (and Europeans in general), then devolved into frank Islamophobia and a broader xenophobia.  This was done by presenting demographic data and concluding from those data that the Europeans who "built the modern world" will "be extinguished" by an overwhelming tide of brown-skinned invaders.

I needed the intellectual equivalent of the "eye bleach" recommended for "unseeing" internet images, and then I remembered this old post featuring one of Hans Rosling's presentations.  He presents data that is probably equivalent to that which Mark Steyn employs, but does so with the perspective of a man of the Enlightenment, not a fearmonger.

Totally worth viewing if you've not seen it.  And worth reviewing every now and then.

Anagrammatic poetry

A hard, howling, tossing water scene.
Strong tide was washing hero clean.
"How cold!" Weather stings as in anger.
O Silent night shows war ace danger!
The cold waters swashing on in rage.
Redcoats warn slow his hint engage.
When star general's action wish'd "Go!"
He saw his ragged continentals row.
Ah, he stands - sailor crew went going.
And so this general watches rowing.
He hastens - winter again grows cold.
A wet crew gain Hessian stronghold.
George can't lose war with's hands in;
He's astern - so go alight, crew, and win!
Washington Crossing the Delaware is a sonnet that was written in 1936 by David Shulman. The title and subject of the poem refer to the scene in the painting Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. The poem is noted for being an anagrammatic poem – in this case, a 14-line rhyming sonnet in which every line is an anagram of the title.
David Shulman was a lexicographe and cryptographer.  Please note that these lines are not only anagrams, but also arranged as rhyming couplets.

Via Neatorama, where there are nine other "Ridiculous feats of literature."

Incomprehensiby callous

"Jamel Dunn, 32, drowned on July 9 in Cocoa, Fla., a coastal city east of Orlando. The teenagers, aged 14 to 16, filmed the incident as they laughed and mocked Dunn, then posted the video to social media...

“He started to struggle and scream for help and they just laughed. They didn’t call the police. They just laughed the whole time. He was just screaming … for someone to help him...

The teens were identified and questioned by detectives investigating the case, but they are unlikely to face charges. They were not directly involved in Dunn’s drowning, and good Samaritan laws — which typically involve protections for bystanders helping on the scene of an emergency — don’t apply to the case, police said."
Police said there appeared to be little regret from the teens involved during and after the incident

“There was no remorse, only a smirk.”
Video embedded at the Washington Post does not depict the drowning, but does include an audio of the teens' taunting.

Remembering Sean Spicer (2017-2017)


Via Jobsanger.

19 July 2017

For librarians (and ex-librarians)

When I was in college I earned my spending money working as a librarian (and had a room quite
literally above the library).  So I was delighted to see a review in the Washington Post discussing a new book about... card catalogs.
This book about card catalogues, written and published in cooperation with the Library of Congress, is beautifully produced, intelligently written and lavishly illustrated. It also sent me into a week-long depression. If you are a book lover of a certain age, it might do the same to you.

“The Card Catalog” is many things: a lucid overview of the history of bibliographic practices, a paean to the Library of Congress, a memento of the cherished card catalogues of yore and an illustrated collection of bookish trivia. The text provides a concise history of literary compendiums from the Pinakes of the fabled Library of Alexandria to the advent of computerized book inventory databases, which began to appear as early as 1976. The illustrations are amazing: luscious reproductions of dozens of cards, lists, covers, title pages and other images guaranteed to bring a wistful gleam to the book nerd’s eye.

For someone who grew up in and around libraries, it is also a poignant reminder of a vanished world.

Now, waxing nostalgic about card catalogues or being an advocate for the importance of libraries is a mug’s game. You can practically feel people glancing up from their iPhones to smile tolerantly at your eccentricity. My response to this, after an initial burst of profanity, is to explain (again) why libraries are essential to narrowing the inequality gap, and why the Internet is not an adequate substitute for books or libraries.

“The Card Catalog” is a heady antidote to the technophilia threatening our culture. The book is especially illuminating on the powerful, if overlooked, properties of the humble catalogue card, some 79 million of which were printed annually at the system’s peak in 1969. Each one is a perfect melding of design and utility, a marvel of informational compression and precision.
After college, while I was in graduate school, I started my own "card catalogue," visiting a university library weekly to transcribe references in professional journals onto literally tens of thousands of 3"x5" lined cards, which I filed in cabinets in my office - a handy source for information in the preparation of lectures.  Then the internet arrived...

I'll close this post with a quote from Annie Proulx:
I mourn the loss of the old card catalogs, not because I’m a Luddite, but because the oaken trays of yesteryear offered the researcher an element of random utility and felicitous surprise through encounters with adjacent cards, information by chance that is different in kind from the computer’s ramified but rigid order.
I've requested this new book from our local library (only 4 people ahead of me on the wait list).

Photo (of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Library card catalog) via Librarianista.

If you dig a hole through the earth...

...you'll end up in China. I remember hearing that as a child. Ignoring for a moment the problem of the magma and the gravitational conundrums one would encounter at the center, it's still untrue. I remember fiddling with a globe and discovering that I would end up somewhere in the middle of the south Indian Ocean.

As an adult I revisited this question and discovered that for most of the people on earth, the antipodes were in an ocean. It's a curious aspect of world geography - most of the large land masses are in the northern hemisphere, with more oceans in the south. And much of the land masses in the south are opposite northern oceans - Africa corresponds to the northern Pacific, and the Aussies would be in the middle of the Atlantic. It must be pure coincidence, though a nagging thought makes one wonder whether there could be a plate tectonic explanation for this.

Now you can explore this on your own. There's a website called Antipodes Map - draggable and zoomable in true Google Map fashion. Click on your location and it shows you what is on the opposite side of the earth.

The Wikipedia entry on the antipodes provides (as expected) an excellent discussion and some relevant composite maps.

Reposted from 2008 (!) to update the links and add this composite map, via Digg.

Surfing from a floating dock

I've seen docks like these lakeside, but hadn't conceived of them as an accessory for ocean sports.  Wow.

Comparing presidential administrations

I ultimately relied on Wikipedia’s list of federal political scandals in the U.S., but limited it to only the executive branch scandals that actually resulted in a criminal indictment. I also decided to only go back as far as Richard Nixon, whose participation in Watergate ultimately resulted in him being the only sitting president to ever resign. This lets many other scandal-ridden administrations off the hook—notably that of Warren Harding and the Teapot Dome scandal, and of Ulysses S. Grant and the Whiskey Ring and Black Friday scandals—but so be it.

The chart only includes people who served in the administration, and excludes others (like members of Congress and private individuals) who may have also been swept up and indicted for the same scandal. The “Convictions” list includes both those who went to trial and were found guilty as well as those who plea bargained and pleaded guilty. The “Prison Sentences” should be considered a minimum figure, as Wikipedia's list wasn’t always clear on penalties and I wasn’t able to look all of the unclear ones up. 
Full details at The Daily Kos (where you can leave your comments).

"Personal flamethrowers" marketed to the general public

A flame-thrower that can hurl a stream of fire half a metre long is being marketed in China to help women fend off unwanted advances.

The device is being billed on shopping websites as a must-have "anti-pervert weapon" that can be discreetly carried in a ladies’ handbag.

Some are shaped like a cigarette lighter and emit small flames, while others hurl fire for 50cm with temperatures of up to 1,800 degrees Celsius (3,300 Fahrenheit).
Further details at The Telegraph.  I should start a "WCGW" category on TYWKIWDBI (as examples for this device, see the comment thread at Boing Boing).

Cyclists' legs

This "You're so vein" photo is one of eight in an album at The Telegraph (trigger warning for gruesome injuries).

Jazz dance competition

Don't have 8 minutes to spare for a video?  Try this gif featuring Ksenia Parkhatskaya, then decide how to apportion your time.

I could dance like this.  I think I must just have the wrong kind of shoes...

16 July 2017

Divertimento #131

The fourth "gifdump."  Lets start with a funny one:

LoCH NeSs MoNSter drOWNS iNNocENt WoMan

Just a little girl watching TV.  With her 12-foot pet snake.

You do the interview while I get out of this lifejacket.

You can lead a horse to water, but...

Husband wakes wife from nap, instantly regrets it.

Bread slicer.

Flying fish successfully evades underwater predator.

Did she treat him to lunch?  Or not...?

Impressive domino spiral.

Desert camouflage (Eritrea).

How patellas ("kneecaps") work.

Dog startles puppies, instantly regrets it.

Basketball dunk, through the legs - twice.

Alleged to be the world's largest single firework.  And a synchronized firework.

Labeled "feeding time," but may have some other explanation.

Using a drone to replace a lightbulb - a technique recommended by lightbulb manufacturers.

Home-made falafel. (from the GIF recipe subreddit, btw)

Secret drawer.

Handfeeding a nautilus.

Good thing this bicyclist didn't back up.

Impressive scarecrow.

Monitor lizard attacks a "snake."

Remoras on a whale shark.

Milling a sprocket.

Portugal national team heading a soccer ball.

Snake easily climbs a smooth-barked tree.

Extreme scooter sport.  Why am I not surprised to see a spectator in a wheelchair?

Heckler of street performer gets what he deserves.

Bicycle accident.  And preparing for the beach cyclocross.  And awesome balance on a bicycle.

How not to cope with burning alcohol. x3.

Riding a motorbike on a railroad track.  (note there is now a WCGW subreddit)

Do Not STRADDLE the pullback-rope of a rope swing.

Unusual soccer trick.

Just too weird to explain.

Lighting methane on a frozen lake.

How a long dog gets off a narrow ledge.

Base jumping at Kjerag Cliff (Norway).

The start of a homing pigeon race.

HMB while I jump over this massive rolling hay bale.

Reversible sequins.

Surprise present.  Have a hankie or tissue ready...

The embedded images today come from A Selection of the Getty's Open Content Program, in The Public Domain Review.  Details and provenance of the images at the link.

14 July 2017

Sample case for a neon salesman (1935)

Found at the Pics subreddit, where there is some informed commentary, but the best comment was this one:
"Marsellus Wallace was a neon salesman?"

How to store tomatoes

A better way to boil eggs

Poison for the arrows of bushmen

Beetles of the genus Diamphidia lay their eggs on the stems of shrubs from the Commiphora genus – commonly known as frankincense and myrrh. The doting mothers then coat their precious eggs with their own feces (that’s faeces for my UK friends), which harden into a protective armor. As the eggs develop through the instar and grub phases, the larvae will shed their poo protection and burrow up to (down to?) three feet, where they make a cocoon from sand and take a needed break. They may lay dormant for several years before molting into pupae, and continue their life cycle. This long dormancy period means that the Bushmen can find the cocoons and larvae year-round and have a ready supply of poison, especially important since mature beetles are not poisonous.

The Bushmen, also known as the San people, dig beside Commiphora host plants, such as Commiphora angolensis, in search of Diamphidia nigroornata, or Commiphora africana for Diamphidia vittatipennis. Once collected, the Bushmen will squeeze the fluid from the larvae and pupae, otherwise known as hemolymph, onto the shaft of their arrows, but not the tip, to avoid “accidents.” Up to ten larvae could be applied to one arrow, which is then dried over hot coals to bond the poison, which maintains its lethal potential for up to a year.
More info at Nature's Poisons, a quite interesting website.  The toxicity was originally assumed to be neurotoxicity and some cardiotoxicity, but recent studies suggest hemolysis as a primary mechanism.

Trail mix

"In Germany, Poland, Hungary and several other European countries, trail mix is called "student food" or "student snack" in the local languages. In New Zealand, trail mix is known as "scroggin" or "schmogle". The term is also used in some places in Australia but usage has only been traced back to the 1970s. Some claim that the name stands for sultanas, carob, raisins, orange peel, grains, glucose, imagination, and nuts or alternatively sultanas, chocolate, raisins and other goody-goodies including nuts; but this may be a false etymology.

The word gorp, a term for trail mix often used by hikers, is typically said to be an acronym for "good old raisins and peanuts" or its common ingredients "granola, oats, raisins, peanuts." The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1913 reference to the verb gorp, meaning "to eat greedily.""

13 July 2017

Hexagon geometry puzzle

This one you can do in your head.  That's what I did.  Got it wrong, but I was really, really, close...

For the answer, go to Brilliant or to Data Genetics.

A new theory about fluorescent coral

It has been known for some time that some shallow-water corals use fluorescence as a protective mechanism:
...the pink and purple fluorescence in shallow waters act as a kind of sunscreen. The fluorescent pigments absorb damaging wavelengths of light and emit it as pink or purple light, protecting the single-celled organisms called zooxanthellae that live symbiotically inside coral. Zooxanthellae are photosynthetic and they provide the coral with food in exchange for shelter.
But now the phenomenon has been observed in coral at low-light depths:
Coral may be converting blue light into orange-red light that penetrates deeper into the coral tissue, where photosynthetic zooxanthellae live. Fluorescence, by definition, is the absorption of light in one color and the emission in another... Blue light may be good at penetrating water and for photosynthesis, but it doesn’t penetrate the coral’s tissues well. And zooxanthellae can live deep inside coral...

Mikhail Matz, a coral scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, says he’s not yet convinced this completely explains the function of the fluorescent pigment in deep water corals. As humans with eyes, we tend focus on the light coming from these coral. But maybe the glow isn’t the point. “The fluorescence may not be the important aspect. It could be a side effect,” he says. It could be that fluorescent proteins are actually there just to absorb light as the part of some metabolism, and the glow that we see is incidental to its true purpose.
Further discussion at The Atlantic.   The paper is at Proc Roy Soc B.

"Punctuation police"

What's worse than a "grammar Nazi?"  Perhaps a "punctuation policeman."
Teachers have attacked the "punctuation police" who have marked down children's SATs for incorrectly drawn commas and semi-colons. Frustrated staff complained about the new mark scheme on social media after children were penalised for drawing punctuation points at the wrong level or failing to draw apostrophes with sufficient curve. Teachers said that their pupils had been marked down for semi-colons which were too high on the line...
Some comments at the Telegraph article suggest that the problem lies with the teachers failing to instruct the students in the proper manner of denoting punctuation marks.

A question for a philatelist

The stamp is Norway's Scott, Facit, and NK #1.  The margins leave something to be desired (i.e. width), but on the positive side the stamp is graced with a well-centered three-ring numeral cancel.

But... is the cancel "66" from Fikke, or "99" from Hamar?

My 2004 Norgeskatalogen accords a "66" cancel on a #1 a rarity factor of "RR"(+1,500 NOK), while the "99" receives a rarity factor of "b" (+100 NOK).

Is there anything about the typography of the numbers that allows a 66 to be distinguished from a 99 when the stamp is off-cover?

I'd appreciate any insight on this matter.

Puddling - updated

These are Purple Emperor and Lesser Emperor butterflies (Apatura genus) getting nutrients from the body of a dead frog.  Butterflies that "puddle" at muddy spots or on scat or on carrion (as shown here) are seeking sodium, which is rarely found in plants (potassium is the principal cation in vegetation).

Photo source, via Uncertain Times.

Reposted from 2011 to add this relevant photo of Eyed Browns by Douglas Buege, via Wisconsin Butterflies' Recent Sightings webpage:

10 July 2017

When you ask the internet for assistance...

The couple in the photo above asked the internet to photoshop the image to remove the shirtless fellow in the background.  Here are some of the results:

There are about 400 more offerings in the link at Bored Panda.

A card trick anyone can do

Mathematical card tricks are the best ones to learn, because no sleight-of-hand is required.  A hat tip to Mark Frauenfelder for creating this video to illustrate the methodology of a clever trick posted at Greg Ross' Futility Closet.

Readers who are math enthusiasts may be able to explain to the rest of us how/why this trick works.  I'm satisfied to accept it as magic.

Reposted from 2013 so I can relearn this trick before our upcoming family reunion.

The sad decline of "open-pollinated" crops

I spotted the above sign recently at the University of Wisconsin Allen Centennial Gardens, a free educational facility that teaches students and the public about gardening and landscaping.

I'm not sure about the context/import of the "kissing" reference, but the "open pollinated" comment caught my eye:
"The last open pollinated corn was released in 1902 - 115 years ago!
Here's a concise explanation from Green Haven:
“Open Pollinated” is a horticultural term meaning that the plant will produce seeds naturally. When these seeds are planted they will reliably reproduce the same plant as the parent. On the other hand, hybrid corn is the result of controlled pollination of inbred plants. These seeds are often sterile, and if they do germinate, will not reliably produce the same plant as the parent. This means the farmer has a perpetual reliance on the seed companies.

This dependence on a few seed/chemical giants is becoming more and more uncomfortable for American consumers and farmers. Green Haven Open Pollinated Seed Group is changing that. We are a nationwide organization of seed producers based in western NY that are pooling out efforts to offer the most beneficial varieties of quality open pollinated Seed. By selection, Green Haven focuses on improving open pollinated corn for silage, grain, and wildlife plots.

A turtle with a "Corvette body"

"Several years ago, a client brought me a box turtle that had been hit by a car. I used fiberglass to repair his broken shell and then released him in my woods. Recently, while walking on my hillside, I spotted an odd pattern in the leaves. To my amazement, there was my old patient with the fiberglass still on... years later! Sometimes, being a vet is the best thing there is."
From the Facebook page of the Hocking Hills Animal Center, via Bored Panda.

Addendum: There is relevant information re repairing turtle shells in this discussion thread.

"Dream On" (Aerosmith, 1973)

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away...
In a 2011 interview, Steven Tyler reminisced about his father, a Juilliard-trained musician, and recalled "lying beneath his dad's piano as a three-year-old, listening to him play classical music. That's where I got that Dream On chordage," he said.
Reposted from 2011 because the originally embedded video had undergone linkrot.  So I'll use this opportunity to embed the original musci video and append some additional info.

Dream On has been classified as a "power ballad." q.v.:
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "danced songs''... Sentimental ballads, also known as pop ballads, rock ballads or power ballads, are an emotional style of music that often deal with romantic and intimate relationships, and to a lesser extent, war (protest songs), loneliness, death, drug abuse, politics and religion, usually in a poignant but solemn manner... Aaron argues that the power ballad broke into the mainstream of American consciousness in 1976 as FM radio gave a new lease of life to earlier songs such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" (1971), Aerosmith's "Dream On" (1973), and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" (1974).
For those who like me have wondered how Steven Tyler's voice held up over the years, here's his performance over 40 years later of a slightly-more concise version:

Pretty damn good.  And so TIL there is a Nobel Peace Prize Concert.

Elevator buttons

There may be a perfectly valid logical reason for the ordering of these elevator buttons; several suggestions are offered in the CrappyDesign subreddit.

Image cropped for size from the original.

"Death and the Civil War"

To paraphrase Will Rogers, I haven't seen an American Experience episode I didn't like.  I have to admit I had low expectations for this one, thinking it would be rehash of the horrors of wartime medicine and the conditions in Andersonville etc., but instead it's a broader view of how a society copes (or doesn't cope) with massive numbers of largely unexpected casualties.

Before the war began neither the Union or the Confederacy had in place any mechanism for dealing with death and injury on the battlefield.  No ambulances, no burial crews (and no designated cemeteries), no dogtags for ID, and not even a perceived responsibility to notify next-of-kin of a death.  Bodies were left unburied and unidentified.  IIRC, fully half of the casualties in the war who were eventually buried were labeled "Unknown."

This is a brief trailer for the 2012 program.  The PBS link for the full-length program shows it to be "unavailable in my area" (I got the DVD from the library).  At 2 hours run-time, it's a bit overlong (I did some fast-forwarding), but overall it was well worth viewing.  

08 July 2017

"The Elements of Eloquence"

If you're going to write a book, and the chapter titles will include: "Polyptoton," "Aposiopesis," "Merism," "Hyperbaton," "Anadiplosis," "Diacope," "Hendiadys," "Epistrophe," "Tricolon," "Epizeuxis," "Syllepsis," "Enallage," "Zeugma," "Chiasmus," "Catachresis," "Litotes," "Metonymy," "Pleonasm," "Epanalepsis," and even "Scesis Onomaton," then you'd better have excellent skills as a wordsmith, because your potential audience will undoubtedly be wary of what is expected to be boring material.

Fortunately this author (Mark Forsyth) has those skills, and he uses the rhetorical devices to explain them.  Here is a brief excerpt from the chapter on pleonasm:
"Pleonasm is the use of unneeded words that are superfluous and unnecessary in a sentence that doesn't require them.  It's repeating the same thing again twice, and it annoys and irritates people...

People who think like this lead terrible lives.  They have never married, simply because they couldn't bear to hear the words:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.
They can't enjoy Hamlet because of the unnecessary "that" in "To be or not to be, that is the question."
An interesting anecdote in the chapter on merism:
"In the medieval marriage service "sickness and health" were followed by: "to be bonny and buxom, in bed and at board, till death do us part."... How could a wife guarantee that she would be buxom?... the word buxom has changed in meaning over the years.  The first citation in the OED comes from the twelfth century and is defined as "Obedient; pliant; compliant, tractable."  The sense then changed to happy, then to healthy, and thence to plump.
Re hyperbaton:
"The importance of English word order is also the reason that the idea that you can't end a sentence with a preposition is utter hogwash.  In fact, it would be utter hogwash anyway, and anyone who claims that you can't end a sentence with up, should be told up to shut.  It is, as Shakespeare put it, such stuff as dreams are made on, but it's one of those silly English beliefs that flesh is heir to."
Re periodic sentences:
John of Gaunt's death scene in Richard II, which begins with "This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle..." adds nineteen additional lines before presenting the main verb: "...Is now leased out..."
We all know someone who uses parataxis:
"Parataxis is like this.  It's good, plain English.  It's one sentence.  Then it's another sentence.  It's direct.  It's farmer's English.  You don't want to buy my cattle.  They're good cattle.  You don't know cattle.  I'm going to have a drink.  Then I'm going to break your jaw.  I'm a paratactic farmer.  My cattle are the best in England."

There's nothing wrong with parataxis.  It's good, simple, clean, plain-living, hard-working, up-bright-and-early English.  Wham.  Bam.  Thank you, ma'am."
Re versification:
In addition to the familiar iamb (te-TUM), trochee (Tumty), anapaest (te-te-TUM), and dactyl (TUM-te-ty) there are "strange feet like the choriamb (TUM-te-te-TUM) and the molossus (TUM! TUM! TUM!).  But these strange ones have never really worked well in English, apart from the amphibrach (te-TUM-te), which is the basis of the limerick: "There was a young man from Calcutta..."
Is this comment true or is it playful nonsense?  "The only reason that T.S. Eliot insisted on the middle initial was that he was panfully aware of what his name would have been without it, backwards." For a short while he became so paranoid that he decided to use his middle name instead and introduced himself as T Stearns Eliot.  The phase did not last, but it's probably why his first great poem was called "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Re congeries:
"Shakespeare loved lists, especially when he was insulting people: "... you starveling, you wolf-skin, you dried neat's tongue, you bull's pizzle, you stock-fish!  O for breath to utter what is like thee!  You tailor's-yard, you sheath, you bow-case; you vile standing-tuck..."

The technical name for a heap of insults is bdelygmia, and the best thing about a good bdelygmia (aside from the pronunciation: no letter is silent) is that you don't even need to know what any of the words mean..."
By now you already know whether you'd enjoy reading this book or not.  I did.

Posted with a tip of the blogging hat to reader Paul Parkinson, who identified this book as the source of a quote in a previous TYWKIWDBI post.

06 July 2017

Interesting design for a health center

Via the CrappyDesign subreddit (where some argue that it's a brilliant design).

That's a heckuva muskie !! - updated

Found floating dead in Lake Mille Lacs.
A 59 1/2-inch muskie — a rare specimen that likely would have set a state record had it been caught alive... The current Minnesota record for a catch-and-release muskie is 56 7/8 inches, a fish caught by Andrew Slette of Hawley on Pelican Lake in Otter Tail County in June 2016...

Today, a catch-and-release ethic pervades muskie angling, especially in Minnesota. Muskie anglers successfully lobbied lawmakers in 2014 to increase the minimum length for keeping a fish to 54 inches. As such, many anglers believe Lyons’ record has been “broken” numerous times, but the fish were released and never weighed. It’s conceivable that a record-breaking fish could be caught but that it would be illegal to keep it...

Scientifically speaking, length is probably a more valuable measure than weight, since an individual fish’s weight varies throughout a single season as it produces eggs (all monster muskies are females), suffers through stressful periods and gorges itself in the fall on fatty prey. But it doesn’t shrink in length. While growth slows tremendously for muskies as they reach old age, they aren’t believed to actually stop growing...

Gilbert said he had no reason to keep the fish. “After I held it up for a photo, I just dropped it back in,” he said. “I figured that was the way to show some respect for the fish. It still smelled up my boat for two weeks.”
Based on a clipped fin, this one was estimated to be 25 years old.

Posted for fellow Minnesotans and others who have spent long hot summer afternoons trolling with a lure as big as the fish you usually catch...

Addendum: Here's another one:

Caught with a 12-inch, black-and-gold crankbait lure.  Kudos to the couple for this:
“Our main concern was ‘Let’s get that fish back in the water,’ ” Derek Poshusta said. He estimates the fish was out of the water for less than a minute.
That's the proper attitude for a sportsman not fishing for an evening meal.

And finally, this video (scroll down the page) of a muskie chomping on a full-grown northern.

Epistocracy as an alternative to democracy

Excerpts from a book review in The New Yorker:
Democracy is other people, and the ignorance of the many has long galled the few, especially the few who consider themselves intellectuals. Plato, one of the earliest to see democracy as a problem, saw its typical citizen as shiftless and flighty...  It would be much safer, Plato thought, to entrust power to carefully educated guardians...

In the United States, élites who feared the ignorance of poor immigrants tried to restrict ballots. In 1855, Connecticut introduced the first literacy test for American voters. Although a New York Democrat protested, in 1868, that “if a man is ignorant, he needs the ballot for his protection all the more,” in the next half century the tests spread to almost all parts of the country... Voter literacy tests weren’t permanently outlawed by Congress until 1975, years after the civil-rights movement had discredited them.

Still, democracy is far from perfect—“the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time,” as Churchill famously said. So, if we value its power to make good decisions, why not try a system that’s a little less fair but makes good decisions even more often? Jamming the stub of the Greek word for “knowledge” into the Greek word for “rule,” Estlund coined the word “epistocracy,” meaning “government by the knowledgeable.”...

In a new book, “Against Democracy” (Princeton), Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown, has turned Estlund’s hedging inside out to create an uninhibited argument for epistocracy.  
More at the link.  The book is not in our local library.  Perhaps some reader here can browse it and report back to the class.

Mobility enhancement for the wheelchair user

The product is made by Rio Mobility.

They don't make 'em like they used to - updated

I can't remember the last time I rode in a car with a bench front seat.

Photo credit ?Joyce Johnson via 40s, 50s, 60s.

Reposted from 2013 to add some information about what everyone noticed before the bench seat.  What she was wearing was called a "bullet bra."
Bullet Bra is a full-support bra with cups in the shape of a paraboloid with its axis perpendicular to the breast. The bullet bra usually features concentric circles or spirals of decorative stitching centred on the nipples.

Invented in the late-1940s, they became popular in the 1950s, and worn by the Sweater Girl, a busty and wholesome "girl next door" whose tight-fitting outergarments accentuated her artificially enhanced curves.
Here is the relevant infrastructure:

Dozens more examples (gallery SFW) at Vintage Everyday, via Bored Panda.

This is a cryptogram math puzzle

Designed for the math aficianado, not the wordsmith.

Each of the 9 letters in the equation represents a different one-digit number from 1-9 (the denominators are double-digit numbers, not multiplied numbers). 

There is a unique solution.  You can view it at DataGenetics.

Stoicism explained

More interesting than the title would imply.  Try the first minute (especially liberal-progressives trying to adjust to the current political climate).

Via Boing Boing.

04 July 2017

Thought-provoking video for the Fourth of July

These Americans were located and assembled for this event by the staff at Ancestry.  They are of course re-enacting the iconic painting by John Trumbull.

"When you see the new picture, the new image, it's a picture of diverse people. Black, white, Hispanic, Native American -- a little bit of everything -- Asian, and that's more of a representation of this country," said Shannon Lanier, the sixth great-grandson of President Thomas Jefferson.

Andrea Livingston is half Filipino. She recently learned she's the eighth great granddaughter of Philip Livingston.
More information at CBS News, which featured this story in more detail on tonight's national broadcast.


The royal palace in Pagaruyung* (a rumah gadang).  Photo via the Pics subreddit.

*Yes, I had to look it up, too.  Indonesia.

Some thoughts for the Fourth of July

Excerpts from "What politicians mean when they say the United States was founded as a Christian nation" in the Washington Post:
Perhaps no aspect of the American founding is as politicized today as the role of religion. Be they atheists or deeply devout, liberals tend to see religious pluralism and equality as definitive American values, while the right-wing (Vice President Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for example) insists that the United States was founded as a Christian nation and that fostering the country’s Christian, or Judeo-Christian, identity is essential. Those with “a secular mind-set,” Sessions argued in opposing Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, do not understand “who we are” and advance a worldview “directly contrary to the founding of our republic.”

It’s an old debate, as old as the United States itself. Yet, contrary to Pence, Sessions and other Christian nationalists, the range of views on what the role of religion in American life should be has actually grown narrower, and shallower, since the Revolutionary generation debated the matter. There are many reasons not to want to return to the politics of the 18th century, but they did hold a richer discussion about religion and society...

For Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, however, religion lay as the root cause of bloodshed and tyranny. They stood, in profound ways, closer to Martin Luther, and Galileo, than we do to them. Jefferson described his and Madison’s attempts in the 1780s to establish religious freedom in Virginia as “the severest contests in which I have ever been engaged.” Neither the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution, the country’s charter documents, are partial to Christianity. The Declaration acknowledges the authority of “the Laws of Nature” and the deists’ beloved “Nature’s God.” Of the 27 grievances against the British Crown that the Declaration puts forward, not one concerns religion. Likewise, the Constitution merely recognizes “freedom of religion”; it doesn’t endorse Christianity — it doesn’t even mention it. These omissions present today’s Christian nationalists with a real awkwardness. It has forced advocates of the “Christian nation” or “Judeo-Christian nation” into strained textual exegeses attributing immense significance to the use of the Christian calendar for example, or elaborate justifications as to why a generation of men and women who said everything somehow left this important thing unsaid.

There was even prevalent, open hostility to Christianity, in the form of anti-Catholicism, in Revolutionary-era America. The American Colonies were deeply, profoundly anti-Catholic. Anti-Catholicism was one of the few things the diverse Colonies shared. Colonists were horrified when Britain, with the 1774 Quebec Act, recognized Quebec’s Catholics as deserving equal protection of the law. The Continental Congress protested, claiming that Catholicism as a religion that had “deluged” Britain in blood and “dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.”

Then, as now, most Christians in the world were Catholics. Claiming that people moved by deep prejudice against most of world’s Christians wanted to form a “Christian nation” makes no sense. The problem cannot be solved by simply devolving to “Protestant nation.” Britain was known as the sword and shield of Protestantism, set against a hostile Catholic Continent. In what form of Protestantism, exactly, did the United States rise up in rebellion against the 18th-century world’s standard-bearer of Protestantism?
Continued at the link.  Lots to think about...


The William Livingstone House (1894-2007) in Detroit, built in the French Renaissance Revival style.

Photo cropped for size from the original posted at the Abandoned Porn subreddit.

Crevice gardening

"Instead of placing rocks into the soil berms (mounds of soil) from the side like stepping stones up the side of a hill, [the Czechs] use flat stones (such as pieces of flagstone or slate) that are pushed down into the soil vertically from the top. These vertical pieces are closely spaced leaving deep, narrow channels of soil...

Crevice gardens are especially good for growing cold hardy cacti, South African succulents and other xeric plants whose roots are sensitive to wet soil conditions. This is also a great way to grow larger growing xeric (low water plants) like Hummingbird Mint (Agastache), Lavender (Lavandula), Sundance Daisy (Hymenoxys), Beardtongue (Penstemon) and native Sage (Salvia) in moister climates. Just make a berm using a well drained soil mix. Bury some big flat rocks close together to create a vertical pocket crevice and plant."
Additional information at High Country Gardens.  I took the photo last week at the University of Wisconsin's Allen Centennial Gardens, a free public garden designed to demonstrate examples of gardening and landscape techniques.

Intentional and unrepentant

"Fabio Silva defended his parking skills and branded other motorists “idiots” after pictures of his white car straddling four spaces circulated on social media.

He said his car was his "pride and joy" and didn't want other motorists to damage it, citing that as the reason he parked in the middle of those spaces...

Mr Silva wrote: "Nothing quite like parking and taking up four spaces.  Start spending hundreds of pounds on your car and then you’ll understand where I’m coming from.  Sorry for not wanting idiots ruining my pride and joy.”"
Found in The Telegraph.
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