23 March 2017

"Protruding iris collarette"

The iris collarette is a landmark that separates the central pupillary zone from the peripheral ciliary zone. It is typically flat but can be prominent, as seen in this patient. This finding is a normal variant. It is benign and asymptomatic and requires no treatment.
Via Neatorama.

"Climate security"

Memo to self: use the phrase "climate security" when discussing climate change with skeptics.
2016 saw a "dramatic" decline in the number of coal-fired power stations in pre-construction globally. The authors of a new study say there was a 48% fall in planned coal units, with a 62% drop in construction starts...

The main causes of the decline are the imposition of restrictive measures by China's central government - with the equivalent of 600 coal-fired units being put on hold until at least 2020... there have also been significant retirements of coal plants in Europe and the US over the past two years, with roughly 120 large units being taken out of commission.

"However abrupt, the shift from fossil fuels to clean sources in the power sector is a positive one for health, climate security, and jobs. And by all indications, the shift is unstoppable."
Maybe American politicians would respond more favorably to the concept of "climate security" than to "climate change."

Can't tolerate punches from cartoon kittens

A 17-year-old girl in California created a website "where users click on Donald Trump’s face to punch him with tiny kitten paws."
But what was meant as nothing more than a jokey website for coding practice has turned into a legal nightmare. Now Lucy is facing the wrath of the big man himself.

Three weeks after the site went live, Lucy was served a cease and desist letter from Trump’s general counsel stationed in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in NYC.

The letter, confirmed by the Observer, reads exactly as you’d expect a Trump C&D would. It begins touting him as a “well-known businessman” and television star and boasts, “As I’m sure you’re aware, the Trump name is internationally known and famous.”

Guided by a family lawyer, Lucy changed the name of the site to KittenFeed.com

When shall we meet?


From the archives of The New Yorker.

21 March 2017

Another type of chess "problem"


Broadcast media (movies, television) have persistent difficulties incorporating chess into their storylines without introducing errors:
There are a ton of chess mistakes in TV and in film,” says Mike Klein, a writer and videographer for Chess.com. While different experts cite different error ratios, from “20 percent” to “much more often than not,” all agree: Hollywood is terrible at chess, even though they really don’t have to be. “There are so many [errors], it’s hard to keep track,” says Grandmaster Ilja Zaragatski, of chess24. “And there are constantly [new ones] coming out.”

Chess errors come in a few different flavors, these experts say. The most common is what we’ll call the Bad Setup. When you set up a chessboard, you’re supposed to orient it so that the square nearest to each player’s right side is light-colored. (There’s even a mnemonic for this—“right is light.”) Next, when you array the pieces, the white queen goes on white, and the black queen goes on black. “When I teach six-year-old girls, I say ‘the queen’s shoes have to match her dress!’” says Klein.

Six-year-olds may get this, but filmmakers often do not. Along with The Seventh Seal, movies that suffer from Bad Setups include Blade Runner, Austin Powers, From Russia with Love, The Shawshank Redemption, and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Shaft and What’s New Pussycat may not have much in common, but they do both feature backwards chessboards.
Further discussion (re dramatic checkmates and tipped-over kings) at Atlas Obscura via Neatorama.

Compare and contrast


For your essay today, class, you will compare and contrast two of the leaders of major countries in terms of their knowledge about nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

Mr. Trump's comments (on the left) can be viewed in this video.  Fortunately, at the time he was not speaking to Angela Merkel, whose doctoral dissertation (on the right) translates as:
"Study of the mechanism of decomposition with single bond breaking and calculation of their rate constant on the basis of quantum mechanical and statistical methods." ("Dissertation to obtain the academic degree doctor in a branch of science - diploma physicist Angela Merkel...")
Sheesh.

Not untrue


From the archives of The New Yorker.

The ancient Greeks had no word for "blue"

Homer’s descriptions of color in The Iliad and The Odyssey, taken literally, paint an almost psychedelic landscape: in addition to the sea, sheep were also the color of wine; honey was green, as were the fear-filled faces of men; and the sky is often described as bronze.

It gets stranger. Not only was Homer’s palette limited to only five colors (metallics, black, white, yellow-green, and red), but a prominent philosopher even centuries later, Empedocles, believed that all color was limited to four categories: white/light, dark/black, red, and yellow. Xenophanes, another philosopher, described the rainbow as having but three bands of color: porphyra (dark purple), khloros, and erythros (red).

The conspicuous absence of blue is not limited to the Greeks. The color “blue” appears not once in the New Testament, and its appearance in the Torah is questioned (there are two words argued to be types of blue, sappir and tekeleth, but the latter appears to be arguably purple, and neither color is used, for instance, to describe the sky).
Further discussion in an interesting column at the Clarkesworld sci-fi e-magazine.

With a tip of the blogging cap to the elves at No Such Thing as a Fish for mentioning this in a recent podcast.

19 March 2017

"A Man Called Ove"


I watched this movie earlier this week and can unreservedly recommend it.
A Man Called Ove (Swedish: En man som heter Ove, pronounced [ˈuːvɛ]) is a Swedish comedy-drama film... The film was written and directed by Hannes Holm, and is based on author Fredrik Backman's 2012 book of the same name. In the leading role as Ove is Rolf Lassgård. The film was nominated for six awards, winning two, at the 51st Guldbagge Awards in 2016. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film and Best Makeup and Hairstyling categories at the 89th Academy Awards.
It's clearly not a Hollywood-style movie, featuring a curmudgeonly older man rather than a superhero, in a story where nothing explodes.  It begins a bit slowly, until the viewer learns a bit of the backstory of the protagonist.  A pleasant diversion for an evening's entertainment.

Re universal health care


Via Reddit.

Word for the day: "Rotting Room"

Before the bodies of Spanish royalty are consigned to their gilded crypts, they are first consigned to a special chamber to allow the flesh to decay.
Rotting Room is the unglamorous translation of “El Pudridero.” When Felipe II designed the gargantuan El Escorial royal complex in the 16th century northwest of Madrid, he practically made it a shrine of death... Located behind the Pantheon walls, accessible only to monks at the Escorial monastery, this is a secretive room accessed by a private passage... It’s here where for at least 20 years mortal kings — and queens who birthed kings — decompose beneath lime until they are completely bone.

Centuries later, the Rotting Room is still in use.

Remembering the Metropolitan Blues All Stars


When I lived in Kentucky in the 1980s,  I had several opportunities to hear the Metropolitan Blues All Stars perform.  The group members came from in the hills of Eastern Kentucky; they came to Lexington for concert performances (or to Louisville for Lonesome Pine Specials as in the 1987 one embedded above).

I particularly remember Rodney Hatfield's prolonged harmonica riffs, and I have an old VCR tape with Caroline Dahl really rocking the keyboard; I understand she later moved on to San Francisco for a successful career there.

I wonder if any other readers here remember the group.  Miss C?

As reported by The Onion


For those unfamiliar with the publication:  "The Onion is an American digital media company and news satire organization... The Onion's articles cover current events, both real and fictional, satirizing the tone and format of traditional news organizations with stories, editorials, op-ed pieces, and man-in-the-street interviews using a traditional news website layout and an editorial voice modeled after that of the Associated Press. The publication's humor often depends on presenting mundane, everyday events as newsworthy, surreal or alarming.

And a backstory from Mother Jones.

Keeping foreigners out of the United States

As reported by Voice of America:
Each year, the University of Southern California brings delegations from Africa to meet with business leaders, government officials and others in the U.S. But this year, the African summit has no Africans. All were denied visas.

Visa issues are not uncommon for people traveling from African nations. During her prior three summits, Mary Flowers saw a high percentage of her attendees at the African Global Economic and Development Summit, unable to attain visas.

"Usually we get 40 percent that get rejected but the others come," said Flowers, chair of the African Global Economic and Development Summit. "This year it was 100 percent. Every delegation. And it was sad to see, because these people were so disheartened."

Flowers estimated that she lost about 100 attendees, including speakers and government officials. The countries affected included Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa.
More details at the link.

Horseplay

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