26 July 2017

The "water cycle" explained


Those living in the Upper Midwest and certain other parts of this country will agree that this sums it up.

An awesome puffball

Calvatia sculpta, commonly known as the sculpted puffball, the sculptured puffball, the pyramid puffball, and the Sierran puffball, is a species of puffball fungus in the family Agaricaceae. Attaining dimensions of up to 8 to 15 cm (3.1 to 5.9 in) tall by 8 to 10 cm (3.1 to 3.9 in) wide, the pear- or egg-shaped puffball is readily recognizable because of the large pyramidal or polygonal warts covering its surface.

Originally described from the Sierra Nevada, C. sculpta is found in mountainous areas in western North America, and was found in a Brazilian dune in 2008. 
And it is edible:
Calvatia sculpta is edible, and said to be "choice" by some authors. The taste is described as "mild" and the flesh has no distinguishable odor. Arora recommends eating the puffball only when it is firm and white inside, as older specimens may have a distasteful iodine-like flavor. The puffball may be preserved by freezing fresh or partially cooked slices, but their flavor and texture will deteriorate unless cooked immediately after thawing. Recommended cooking techniques for puffball slices include sautéing and coating in batter before frying. C. sculpta was used as a traditional food of the Plains and Sierra Miwok Indians of North America, who called the fungus potokele or patapsi. Puffballs were prepared by drying them in the sun, grinding them with a mortar, and boiling them before eating with acorn soup.
No thanks.  Please pass the Doritos.

Ultrasonic bird repeller - not


Image cropped for size from the original at Reddit, where this comment by oilbird is relevant:
I study sensory systems (vision, hearing, etc) in birds and all birds studied so far are, with out a doubt, incapable of hearing ultrasound. In fact, the highest frequency at which they can hear is for all birds much lower than humans. Most birds don't hear almost anything above 6 KHz while humans go up to 20 KHz. Ultrasounds is defined as being above the human range, so no birds is ever going to be even remotely bothered by an ultrasound machine. Edit: Holy shit, talking about scams. This shit is almost 600 bucks. Says in their website is tuned to 20 KHz and humans can't hear it. as I said above, if humans can't hear it then it will not affect birds in any way, period.

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)


Addendum:


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.
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