21 September 2017

Octopus candleholder


Found at the Crafts subreddit.

Ectopia cordis



Colloquially "heart outside the chest."  This young girl has the Pentalogy of Cantrell:
Link to the BBC program.  More on ectopia cordis.

Your tax money at work

President Donald Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is facing intense criticism due to the revelation that he used private jets on at least five occasions for official business, adding tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for American taxpayers in the process.

Price took five flights between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15 to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania for various health care-related events, according to Politico. His predecessors under President Barack Obama, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, used commercial jets when flying within the continental United States.

On one occasion, Price took a charter flight from the Washington-area Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport, costing taxpayers roughly $25,000. A flight on United Airlines was leaving at roughly the same time and would have cost only $447 to $725 per person, Politico noted. There were also four Amtrak trains that Price could have taken, which would have gotten him to Philadelphia on time; the cheapest train could cost $72 in advance. And, of course, he could have driven the 125-mile trip, taking about 2 1/2 hours, according to Politico.
Additional details at Salon.

If you want a real rant on this topic, read How the one percent put the fix in at 30,000 feet.
"Time is money, and the wealthy and their political lackeys have been able to use the one to buy the other with their Gulfstreams and Falcons and Bombardiers. They don’t wait in line. Nobody tells them to turn off their cell phones and other electronic devices. A big black car drops them off at the steps to a gleaming jet and moments later, they’re aloft, above the fray, flying over the heads of the rest of us plebes down here dragging our crummy carry-ons and sweating out whether we remembered to take that damn bottle of mouthwash and transfer three ounces of it into a little travel bottle and stick that goddamned thing in a fucking plastic bag, or somebody in dark trousers and a blue shirt is going to tell us to open our bag and go jamming their hands in our underwear and socks until they come up with the offending bottle of dangerous mouthwash so we can be given the choice of going back to the counter and checking it, or throwing the damn stuff in the nearby trash bin supplied for just that purpose."
Way more at the link.

A transcript of Jon Stewart's final soliloquy


Jon Stewart ended his remarkable sixteen years on television with one final series of incisive comments to his viewers.  I haven't found an "official" transcript of the video, so here is my best effort in that regard (boldface, formatting, and links added by me):
Bullshit is everywhere.

There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit - not all of it bad. General day-to-day organic free-range bullshit is often necessary, or at the very least innocuous. "Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure he'll grow into that head."

That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer that keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there's the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract.  Designed by whom? The bullshit talkers.

Comes in three basic flavors:  One - making bad things sound like good things.
"Organic all-natural cupcakes." Because "factory-made sugar oatmeal balls" doesn't sell.

"Patriot Act," because "Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act," doesn't sell.

Whenever something's been titled Freedom, Fairness, Family, Health, and America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it's been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.
Number Two, the second way - hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit.
Complexity - you know, "I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill diss." (Everyone promised me that that made sense.)  "But I'm not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy's ITunes agreement, so I'll just click "Agree" even if it grants Apple prima noctae with my spouse."

Here's another one - simply put, simply put - banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red.

Bullshitly put, it's... hey, this. Dodd-Frank.

"Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right?"  "Of course not. They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501c4 if 50% is devoted to issue education; otherwise they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign-coordinating superpac with a quarter...  I think they're asleep now. We can sneak out."
And finally, finally, it's The Bullshit of Infinite Possibility.
These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry.

"We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything."

"We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns.  Until then, I say "teach the controversy."
Now, the good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected.

And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time - like an "I Spy" of bullshit.

So I say to you tonight, friends - the best defense against bullshit is vigilance.

So if you smell something, say something.
TYWKIWDBI embeds this image in selected posts for that purpose -


Reposted from 2015.  The video has undergone linkrot, but the text is still relevant to today's world.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)


Photographed yesterday nectaring on the last blossoms of our rue.  Not as sharp as I'd like the photo to be, but not bad for a cellphone image.

The main website for butterfly sightings in Wisconsin is getting numerous reports of large numbers of Painted Ladies.  Earlier this week I received an email from a friend up in Walker, Minnesota who photographed a group of at least 70 of these butterflies nectaring in her front garden. 

Happy Afghan child


Posted because Americans seldom see those words written together.

Via Reddit, where the photo location is noted as being set up for raisin-processing.

"Isle of Dogs" trailer

 

Has overtones of Wall-E.   Interesting that there are eleven actors from his Grand Budapest Hotel who provide voices for this animation. 

18 September 2017

The world has an abundance of "Devil's Bridges"


The one in the photo above (that doesn't look real...) is the Rakotzbrücke at the Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau (Germany).  (summer photo)
Devil's Bridge is a term applied to dozens of ancient bridges, found primarily in Europe. Most of these bridges are stone or masonry arch bridges and represent a significant technological achievement. Each of the Devil's Bridges has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale. Local lore often wrongly attributes these bridges to the Roman era, but in fact many of them are medieval, having been built between 1000 and 1600 AD. In medieval times some Roman roads were themselves considered beyond human capabilities and needs, and therefore had to have been built by the devil.
List of such bridges and some legends at the link.

Is this the "worst ever" legend for a bar graph?


Via

Ásatrú - the religion of the Vikings

Excerpts from an article at Iceland Magazine:
The religion of the original Viking settlers of Iceland, the old Norse paganism Ásatrú, is not just still alive and well in Iceland, it is undergoing something of a renaissance...

According to figures from Statistics Iceland 3,583 people belonged to Ásatrúarfélagið on January 1 2017, up from 1,040 members 10 years ago. The membership has grown by 244% since 2007, making paganism the fastest growing religion in Iceland over the past decade...

This growth has come in spite of the fact that unlike other religious organizations Ásatrúarfélagið has never engaged in any form of missionary work or proselytizing...

The weekly meetings of Ásatrúarfélagið are open to the public, as are all its official ceremonies, the blót...

Ásatrú has no prescribed dogma or scripture. However, you are however encouraged to read the Poetic and Prose Eddas written by the 13th-century chieftain and scholar, Snorri Sturluson. No one actually prays to the gods and how you might ask their intercession is entirely up to you. The gods are imperfect and not divine. They are seen more as friends and don´t judge us humans...

Ásatrú, as it has been practiced in Iceland, is a religion of nature and life, stressing the harmony of the natural world...

Many neo-pagan groups in Europe and the US who consider themselves observers of the religion of the Vikings, practice a religion which glorifies battles, militarism, masculine heroism and in some cases chauvinism, violence, intolerance and racism. Some white-power groups and members of Aryan Nation gangs practice these forms of paganism. Ásatrúarfélagið rejects this as a misreading of Ásatrú.

Long-distance macro lens

Due to hit the shops next year, the Laowa 24mm f/14 Relay 2x Macro lens has a rather long lens barrel that Laowa says can be used to shoot shy subjects at difficult spots without scaring them.
Explanatory video here.

Even more on the Equifax horror story

You know about the security breach affecting 143 million Americans.  You probably didn't know (perhaps don't want to know?) what Krebs on Security reported yesterday:
But the official list of victim countries may not yet be complete: According to information obtained by KrebsOnSecurity, Equifax can safely add Argentina — if not also other Latin American nations where it does business — to the list as well...

It took almost no time for them to discover that an online portal designed to let Equifax employees in Argentina manage credit report disputes from consumers in that country was wide open, protected by perhaps the most easy-to-guess password combination ever: “admin/admin.”...

Once inside the portal, the researchers found they could view the names of more than 100 Equifax employees in Argentina, as well as their employee ID and email address. The “list of users” page also featured a clickable button that anyone authenticated with the “admin/admin” username and password could use to add, modify or delete user accounts on the system.

A review of those accounts shows all employee passwords were the same as each user’s username. Worse still, each employee’s username appears to be nothing more than their last name, or a combination of their first initial and last name. In other words, if you knew an Equifax Argentina employee’s last name, you also could work out their password for this credit dispute portal quite easily.

But wait, it gets worse... 
More details at Krebs on Security

This at a company whose business is credit monitoring and financial security, for fox ache.

Wrenches


Via the Hmmm subreddit.

Bespoke porn

Bespoke: In sense “custom-made”, 1755, from earlier bespoken (c. 1600), form of bespeak, in sense “arrange beforehand” (1580s).  Primarily used for tailoring, now also used more generally, as fancier term for custom-made, notably for software, as in a “bespoke solution”.
Most people are familiar at least with the concept of bespoke clothing custom-tailored to the individual.  Most probably are not aware that the pornography industry offers bespoke products.
It is very unusual to find second cameramen on porn sets these days: the internet is killing porn-makers who take pride in production values. It’s because the money is now in the pockets of the tech giants in faraway cities such as Montreal, owners of sites such as PornHub that are crammed with pirated content illegally uploaded by fans; PornHub is currently the world’s 38th most popular site.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve been tracing the consequences of all that free porn. It’s laying waste to the Valley, compelling some actors to take up escorting, and putting crews and production companies out of business.  But... he explains that customs – bespoke porn – is a new growth industry in the Valley. In houses all around us, teams of professional porn-makers are staying afloat by conjuring into life entire films for just one viewer...

Dan plays me the flyswatter video. In it, a fully clothed woman becomes exasperated because there’s a fly and, to make matters worse, she’s misplaced her flyswatter. Eventually she finds it and spends the rest of the video swatting flies...

Next, Dan shows me a film commissioned by a client they call Condiments Man. A woman in a swimsuit sits in a paddling pool. Rhiannon stands above her, out of shot on a ladder, holding industrial-sized tubs of condiments. And she starts to pour them over her head: ketchup, relish...

Stamps Man, Dan says, is from Norway. He spent 40 years assiduously amassing a stamp collection, which he mailed to them for the purposes of the video.

Dan presses play. It fades in on a book of stamps lying on a living room floor. Three young women enter. They complain about it being hot outside and wonder if they should take a shower. But then they notice the stamp collection. They pick up the book and leaf through it.

“He would rather look at this stamp collection than have sex with me,” one of the women says.
“All the more reason to get rid of it,” her friend replies.

So the girls stomp on the stamps, twisting their heels into the pages. Stamps rip and tear. Then they throw the remaining stamps into the fire.

“Burn! Burn! Burn!” they chant. “This is so fucking awesome.”

“In real life, the girls felt bad about it,” Rhiannon says. “We kept trying to assure them, ‘No, this is really what he wants.’” She pauses. “He’s such a sweet guy. I’m very curious to know what he’s like in real life.”
Much more at The Guardian (safe for work).  This was also the subject of a recent podcast on This American Life.

13 September 2017

Divertimento #134


An interesting jigsaw puzzle.

"An 11-year-old Minnesota girl is recovering from bone-deep lacerations to her foot after being bitten, apparently by a large fish, on Island Lake north of Duluth.  Island Lake is home to large muskies and northern pike."

Annoying floor tile.

"The coastal areas of the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, are home to tens of millions of pounds of dumped munitions, said Niall Slowey, a professor at Texas A&M University who has more than a decade researching the topic. That number includes 30,000 tons of chemical agents like mustard, that were dumped following the World Wars."

Unlike wine, whisky does not mature in the bottle.

Romanian waterfall.

"The Queen’s cousin Margaret Rhodes says that her drinking routine never deviates, remaining the same day after day.... prior to lunch she has a gin and Dubonnet, served with a slice of lemon and ice. During lunch she enjoys a glass of wine and, once evening arrives, the Queen sips on a dry martini, followed by a glass of Champagne."


Odd tattoo.

"Non Je Ne Regrette Rien" translated to English (video).  Marginally safe for work.

"For gulls in Chilean Patagonia, seal pup poop laced with parasitic hookworms is a tasty treat. But the eager birds are snapping up their meals just a little too near to the pups, to the detriment of the seals' tender rear ends..."

ELI5: If we are running out of helium, why are we still selling canisters for balloons?

"Nearly every day for the past 25 years, Arakawa has been diving into the waters of Hasama Underwater Park in Tateyama, Japan, to visit Yoriko—an Asian sheepshead wrasse.  (video)

The unexpected horrors of space medicine (especially space surgery).

Longread on a life well lived.


There seems to be no end to the problem of credit card skimmers at gas pumps: "... the first known example of a skimmer that used SMS messages to exfiltrate its stolen data. More usually, skimmers store their data, and then dump it over Bluetooth when a crook returns to the scene of the crime -- using SMS obviates this step and significantly reduces the criminal's risk."

"You don't need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute if you're going to skydive twice."

"Between 500 and 1,000 shipwrecks were recorded around Quebec’s isolated Magdalen Islands."
(15-page photoessay at the link).  Interesting.

A scary article for anyone planning to vacation in Mexico.

How to fill multiple watering cans.

Clever husband.


"You will be exactly half as old as your mother only once in your life, and that is when you are the same age she was when she gave birth to you."

A man meets a mother grizzly bear and her cubs walking toward him on a narrow trail.  He films and narrates while he walks backwards...

Your facial blackheads may not be blackheads.

"No matter how much we love green energy, we have to admit that wind turbines completely destroy the picturesque landscape."

"How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder."


"Harris Hawks are attacking walkers and runners after escaping from falconries across the country, with experts warning that the predators are now breeding in Britain."

Runners World explains "What you need to know about plantar fasciitis."

"Usually bodies emerged from the ice at the top of the glacier, rather than its “tongue” at the bottom of the valley, Jackowski said. The extent to which bodies have been preserved by the ice depends on the circumstances of the person’s demise, with some human remains having been mummified by sunshine and dry winds before being engulfed in ice, while others have been reduced to skeletons."

Annual Redhead Day in the Netherlands.

Young woman applies 100 coats of nail polish to her fingernails (video with 20 million views).

An example of how DNA testing can yield surprisingly unexpected results (longread, but interesting).


Webpage for the Democratic Socialists of America.

"Dressed in jeans, sneakers and a hoodie, the county mayor spent three days and two nights walking and sleeping among the homeless and drug-addicted in Salt Lake City's Rio Grande neighborhood. One night on the street. One night in the shelter. His experience was "shocking" on multiple levels, he said."

"Out of public view, corporations are cutting deals that give consumers little choice but to buy brand-name drugs — and sometimes pay more at the pharmacy counter than they would for generics."

"Telling patients to stop taking antibiotics when they feel better may be preferable to instructing them to finish the course, according to a group of experts who argue that the rule long embedded in the minds of doctors and the public is wrong and should be overturned."

"... copper should not come in in direct contact with food or drinks that have a pH below 6. The pH of a traditional Moscow mule, made with lime juice, ginger beer and vodka, is well below 6.

Power washed.

Some men consider it necessary to prove their manliness by punching a bear trap with their fist.

Excellent license plate for a Chevy Impala.


Embedded images from Le Livre des Miracles (The book of Miracles)(1552), via Elisandre - L'Oeuvre au Noir.
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