01 December 2016

Chechen wedding

What a lovely photo.  Credit Valery Sharifulin/Tass, via a gallery at The Guardian.

"They" as a replacement for "he or she"

That's how today's headline in The Telegraph was phrased.  I know there are several copyeditors who follow this blog.  I'd appreciate your comments.

Offered without comment

A tongue-in-cheek poster from Scarfolk, via Replaces and cancels the previous Johnnythehorse..

Democracy is not an inherently stable form of government

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

For decades, global events seemed to support that idea. Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year...  
According to the Mounk-Foa early-warning system, signs of democratic deconsolidation in the United States and many other liberal democracies are now similar to those in Venezuela before its crisis.

Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger generations...

Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014, compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.

That trend is particularly strong among young people. For instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of millennials agreed...
More at the New York Times.

1938 Alfa

Image via The Age of Diesel.

Bullets from the Battle of Gallipoli

An evocative image of war, though not quite a case of res ipsa loquitur, as explained at the source.  I believe similar artifacts have been found at American Civil War battlegrounds.

If a retailer sends you too much stuff...

... you don't have to return it.
To put it simply: you can keep it. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you have a legal right to keep unordered merchandise and consider it a free gift. That’s because federal law prohibits mailing unordered merchandise to consumers and then demanding payment...

In general, though you’re not legally obligated to tell the seller, if your conscience is pushing you in that direction, the FTC suggests that you notify the seller and offer to return the merchandise, so long as the seller is the one who will pay for all of the return shipping.


As the top commentor at Reddit Pics said, "At what point does it stop being "cake" and just become "a sculpture made of fondant?"

Can someone tell me how long a creation like this would "keep"?  And would it be... edible?

Water can freeze at 100 degrees Celsius

If it's inside a carbon nanotube:
"... a team at MIT has found a completely unexpected set of changes: Inside the tiniest of spaces — in carbon nanotubes whose inner dimensions are not much bigger than a few water molecules — water can freeze solid even at high temperatures that would normally set it boiling.

The discovery illustrates how even very familiar materials can drastically change their behavior when trapped inside structures measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. And the finding might lead to new applications — such as, essentially, ice-filled wires — that take advantage of the unique electrical and thermal properties of ice while remaining stable at room temperature.
Abstract at Nature Nanotechnology.  Discussion thread at the New Reddit Journal of Science.

TYWKIWDBI continues to support Wikipedia - updated

[from 2009] This blog uses Wikipedia extensively as a quick source for reference material. We therefore made a contribution this morning to their annual fund drive. When we did so last year [2008] one reader sent us a list of the Top 10 Reasons Not to Donate to Wikipedia. We have read that list and elected to repeat our contribution this year.

Addendum: I don't know whether the following is worth moving "above the fold," but I'll give it a try. In response to my initial post above, I received the following admonishment -
Hey, I'll leave you a message again this year! Do you know what the key difference between the previous year's balance sheet and last year's balance sheet at the Wikimedia Foundation was?

Previous year's cash overage that was stuffed into the bank: $3 million.

Last year's cash overage that was stuffed into the bank: $6 million.

Thanks to donors like you with no more independent thought than a sheep within a flock, you just helped the Wikimedia Foundation stuff even more money into the bank, and NOT spend it on the program services that you "thought" it would be spent on.

I can't help it if you're stupid.
Now I'm a thrifty person in a thrifty family. We drive two cars that are combined 25 years old with a quarter million miles on them. We don't like to throw money around. But we generously tip servers in restaurants and donate to selected charities and otherwise disperse our money appropriately in response to received value. I made what I consider to be a rather modest contribution to Wikipedia/Wikimedia as a token of thanks for saving me hundreds of hours of searching the net for information.

The primary argument at the anti-Wiki link seems to be that too much of donated money goes into the pockets of Jimmy Wales, Amazon, Google, and other corporations because of excessive salaries and referred business. Mr. Wales makes $400K. So what? Good for him. There are a hundred college football coaches who make more than that.

I found the football coach salaries just now in 5 seconds using Google. Google gets some of my paltry donation? Fine. Great. I Google every day of my life. Amazon? They can have some money. Why is someone so concerned re my giving money that he takes the time to write a message on my blog to reprimand (and try to insult) me???

Perhaps it's not just the money. There are allegations that Wikipedia "pollutes the minds of children" because they have articles about... sex. Someone writing the anti-Wiki material has gone to great length to collect all of the salacious Wiki entries in one place (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean...) Perhaps if Wiki were eliminated, then all these aberrancies of behavior would disappear from life? From the internet? Children could get their information from schoolmates instead?

There are inaccuracies in Wikipedia! Really??? Not as reliable as the Encyclopedia Brittanica? Control of the information is in the hands of a few selected editors who perhaps have personal agendas they wish to promote? The Illluminati of cyberspace?

I'm not going to waste any more time on this rebuttal. There's a whole new day's worth of new stuff out there for me to search for blogworthy topics. Bye now.

Addendum:  Reposted from 2009, after making a contribution for 2012.  TYWKIWDBI also made contributions in 2010 and 2011, but I think this old post best explains the controversy.

Addendum:   Reposted yet again for 2015, because I continue to make modest annual contributions.  Some readers have suggested I put a "tip jar" on TYWKIWDBI.  Personally I'd prefer that you send such donations to Wikipedia.  (p.s. - for completeness, here are this year's counterarguments).

Addendum:  Reposted yet again, to encourage readers to follow my example.

"Sinnerman" (Nina Simone)

While watching Hunt for the Wilderpeople a couple nights ago, I heard this song in the soundtrack, and remembered hearing it in The Thomas Crown Affair.  Found more information at Wikipedia:
"Sinner Man" or "Sinnerman" is accepted as an African American traditional spiritual song that has been recorded by a number of performers and has been incorporated in many other of the media and arts. The lyrics describe a sinner attempting to hide from divine justice on Judgement Day. It was recorded in the 1950s by Les Baxter, the Swan Silvertones, the Weavers and others, before Nina Simone recorded an extended version in 1965...

Simone learned the lyrics of this English song in her childhood when it was used at revival meetings by her mother, a Methodist minister, to help people confess their sins. In the early days of her career during the early sixties, when she was heavily involved in the Greenwich Village scene, Simone often used the long piece to end her live performances.

How to place a security freeze on your credit

From Krebs on Security:
If you’ve been paying attention in recent years, you might have noticed that just about everyone is losing your personal data. Even if you haven’t noticed (or maybe you just haven’t actually received a breach notice), I’m here to tell you that if you’re an American, your basic personal data is already for sale. What follows is a primer on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft as a result of all this data (s)pillage...

If your response to this breachapalooza is to do what each of the breached organizations suggest — to take them up on one or two years’ worth of free credit monitoring services — you might sleep better at night but you will probably not be any more protected against crooks stealing your identity. As I discussed at length in this primer, credit monitoring services aren’t really built to prevent ID theft. The most you can hope for from a credit monitoring service is that they give you a heads up when ID theft does happen, and then help you through the often labyrinthine process of getting the credit bureaus and/or creditors to remove the fraudulent activity and to fix your credit score. 

In short, if you have already been victimized by identity theft (fraud involving existing credit or debit cards is not identity theft), it might be worth paying for these credit monitoring and repair services (although more than likely, you are already eligible for free coverage thanks to a recent breach at any one of dozens of companies that have lost your information over the past year). Otherwise, I’d strongly advise you to consider freezing your credit file at the major credit bureaus...

Q: What is a security freeze?
A: A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or “pull” your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze in place on your credit file, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name all they want, but they will not succeed in getting new lines of credit in your name because few if any creditors will extend that credit without first being able to gauge how risky it is to loan to you (i.e., view your credit file).
Continued at the link, which I strongly recommend reading.   Those recommendations were posted several months ago, but it wasn't until yesterday that I got around to implementing them.  I used the links in the article to contact Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion.  After a couple hours of clicking and the expenditure of $10 per site, I was able to freeze my credit files.

Puckish humor

While other heads of state aspire to regal magnificence, Queen Elizabeth remains a bit different in that regard.  This photo reminded me of my favorite story about her.  It was told by one of her former "protection officers."  He  had accompanied her to a public gathering in the area of Balmoral, not far from one of her castles.

The Queen was dressed informally while visiting a flower show or such.  While there she fell into conversation with some American tourists, one of whom asked her if she "lived around here." She told the lady that she did in fact have a place nearby.

The lady then asked eagerly whether she  had ever met the queen.  After a moment's consideration she replied (truthfully) "No..."  Then, pointing at her protection officer she said, "But HE has!"

Your home security camera may be attacking a Russian bank

As reported by Krebs on Security:
Thursday morning, security vendor Kaspersky Lab warned that a massive cyberattack hit five of Russia’s largest banks. Kaspersky said in a statement that the distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) began Tuesday at 1830 IST and targeted “the websites of at least five well-known financial institutions in the top 10” in Russia.

It remains unclear who launched the bank cyberattacks, which are reportedly ongoing. Kaspersky said the attack on Russia’s banking system is apparently being launched by a network of more than 24,000 hacked Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and that more than half of the hacked things were in the United States, India, Taiwan and Israel.
Most people don't understand that interfacing their home appliances with their phone via the internet is not a risk-free procedure.  More re Internet of Things.

Shopping for clothes

Here is a rack of shirts in our local Blain's Farm &Fleet store.  Lets see... there are about three "small," then a couple dozen medium, then lots of large and extra large.  And lots of extra extra large.  And...

... then comes the "extra extra extra large," and finally the ones for which there are no preprinted signs so they had to use a Sharpie to designate the "extra extra extra extra large" shirts.

I don't know if this is true elsewhere.  It does seem to be typical here in south-central Wisconsin.
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