30 June 2016

A breast cancer survivor walks to Washington

From Biloxi, Mississippi.  Topless.
Paulette Leaphart left her hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi, on April 30, intent on walking to Washington, D.C. -- a journey of 1,034 miles -- and arriving by June 27, her 50th birthday, a milestone her doctors weren't always confident she would reach.

She strides with a sense of purpose, acknowledging that her body is forever changed. Leaphart was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January 2014. She underwent a double mastectomy and wears the scars as emblems of her struggle.

Accompanied by her youngest daughter, 8-year-old Madeline, Leaphart is traveling the entire route topless.

She wants to make sure Congress understands her experience and recognizes that her plight isn't unusual... 
Here's the crux:
"I trained for this. When I got sick, I had to sell my cars. That made me walk to the doctor," Leaphart says, the memory still vivid. "I'd walk the 5 miles there, recover for an hour or two, then walk the 5 miles back."

Cancer treatment had an effect on her mouth. Many of her teeth are now chipped or broken, her molars useless.

"I need to get my mouth fixed, but do you know how much they want? Ten thousand dollars," Leaphart says, the number spilling from her lips with acrimony.
And this:
A deputy of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office eases out of his vehicle, parked along Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia. He and another officer have come to talk to Leaphart about her decision to walk bare-chested...

The officer's initial concern stems from social norms based on gender -- the idea that she should be wearing a shirt because she is a woman. The officers respectfully but firmly
insist that she wear a shirt...

Leaphart no longer has nipples. That's why she is allowed to walk around shirtless. In most states, indecent exposure is defined as exposing the genitals (breasts and nether regions). She explains this to almost every officer she meets. While respectfully challenging the police's reasoning, she also confronts society's definition of what it means to be a woman.
She made it, and is scheduled to meet with some legislators.
She has found the purpose for her pain, and as she stands on the steps of the Capitol building on her birthday, she utters three words: "Thank you, God."
More details at ESPN.  Credit for both photos to Latria Graham.

Ja, das ist ein distelfink

I ran across the word while reading a story by Charles Kuralt, and despite my Pennsylvania German heritage, I had to look it up.
A distelfink is a stylized goldfinch, probably based on the European variety.  It frequently appears in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art.  It represents happiness and good fortune and the Pennsylvania German people, and is a common theme in hex signs and in fraktur. The word distelfink (literally 'thistle-finch') is the German name for the European goldfinch.
Next step: look up fraktur:
Fraktur is both a style of lettering and a highly artistic and elaborate illuminated folk art created by the Pennsylvania Dutch...
And then to understand why the "goldfinch" looks so odd, I had to look at photos to see that the European goldfinch looks way different from the American ones that are at our feeders all the time.

Coming July 4: Jupiter orbit insertion

 This is an awesome trailer for next week's event.  Even if you normally don't care about astronomy and space, give this one a try.
"The background radiation we're exposed to on earth is about 0.39 rad.  What we expect to see at Jupiter is about 20,000,000 rad."

"Juno's planned mission will take it around the Jovian giant 37 times, after which, to avoid contaminating Europa with microbes, it will be directed to dive into Jupiter's thick atmosphere, where it will break apart and melt."

India declares dolphins to be "non-human persons"

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests now forbids the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment:
“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphin should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose,” the ministry said.
Via Reddit.  Props to the Indian government.

Bird wing trapped in amber

Found in a Burmese amber mine:
The two new samples, weighing in at only 0.06 and 0.3 ounces (1.6 and 8.51 grams), contain bone structure, tracts of feathers, and soft tissue. They are the first Cretaceous plumage samples to be studied that are not simply isolated feathers, according to study co-author Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences...

Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible in both samples, along with the remains of rows of primary asymmetrical flight feathers, secondary feathers, and covert feathers. All are similar in arrangement and microstructure to modern birds.
More at National Geographic

A surprising graph of American gun ownership

The percent of American households owning guns is at a near-40 year low in the latest CBS News poll released this month. According to the survey, which was conducted among 1,001 Americans in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting, 36 percent of U.S. adults either own a firearm personally, or live with someone who does. That's the lowest rate of gun ownership in the CBS poll going back to 1978. It's down 17 points from the highest recorded rate in 1994, and nearly 10 percentage points from 2012.

Different national polls tend to show slightly different rates of gun ownership... But the downward trend in gun ownership remains consistent across the national polls.

But gun purchases, as measured by FBI firearm background checks, are at historic highs... Many gun rights advocates argue that these figures mean that the overall number of gun owners is growing... But the declining rates of gun ownership across three major national surveys suggest a different explanation: that most of the rise in gun purchases is driven by existing gun owners stocking up, rather than by people buying their first gun. A Washington Post analysis last year found that the average American gun owner now owns approximately eight firearms, double the number in the 1990s.
More details at The Washington Post.

26 June 2016


Windblown ducklings (all eventually made it to safety).

Video shows complication of shooting Dragon's Breath incendiary rounds with a shotgun.

House arrest ankle bracelet placed on man's artificial leg.  He switches legs and goes out and kills someone.

Researchers find "the first example of any eukaryote that completely lacks mitochondria."

Barns on farms are becoming popular wedding venues.  "Counties and cities recognize that entertainment venues can economically boost a rural area. And for owners and operators, prices can run between $2,000 and $4,000 a night per rental."  But they present a nuisance for neighbors.

Why an E.R. charges $629 to put a bandaid on a finger.

Watch the helmet as he slides into second base.

"Iceland seems to be on its way to becoming an even more secular nation, according to a new poll. Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God."

"... one progressive organization recently uncovered how Koch Industries uses every trick they can wring out of governments worldwide to avoid paying taxes."

Video of a giant octopus kite.

A tunnel has been found under a pyramid at Teotihuacán.

American Prairie Reserve is creating the largest nature reserve in the continental United States.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been criticised for taking a private jet from Cannes to New York to pick up an environmental award – before jetting back to Cannes.

Enthusiastic golden lab comes to a girl's rescue.

"Those in the movement call themselves patriots, demanding that the federal government adhere to the Constitution and stop what they see as systematic abuse of land rights, gun rights, freedom of speech and other liberties.  Law enforcement officials call them dangerous, delusional and sometimes violent, and say that their numbers are growing amid a wave of anger at the government that has been gaining strength since 2008, a surge that coincided with the election of the first black U.S. president and a crippling economic recession."

A showerthought: "We live in a world where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons."

Gawker has an in-depth study of Donald Trump's hair.  If you care.

"While folate is essential for healthy baby development, excessive amounts could be harmful. The study, released today by Johns Hopkins University, analyzed data from 1,391 mother-child pairs. The women who had both excessive folate and vitamin B12 levels were over 17 times more likely to have children that develop the autism spectrum disorder. Those with excessive folate levels – four times above what is considered adequate – faced double the risk."

Millions of snow fleas turn snow black.

The intrinsic problems of time capsules and intergalactic messages.

A man was stung to death by bees in an Arizona park.

"Once so wealthy from oil sales that they could finance wars, mega-projects, and domestic social peace simultaneously, some [petro-states] are now beset by internal strife or are on the brink of collapse as oil prices remain at ruinously low levels... In 2016, one thing is finally clear, however: the business model for these corporatized states is busted. The most basic assumption behind their operation — that global oil demand will continue to outpace world petroleum supplies and ensure high prices into the foreseeable future — no longer holds.  Instead, in what for any petro-state is a nightmarish, upside-down version of that model, supply, not demand, is forging ahead, leaving the market flooded with fossil fuels."
And a different article at CBC News discusses how this applies to Canada.

Chipmunk in a bird feeder shows the capacity of his cheek pouches.

A 6'2" basketball player takes off from behind the free-throw line to dunk the ball.

"Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white nationalists have begun using three sets of parentheses encasing a Jewish surname — for instance, (((Fleishman))) — to identify and target Jews for harassment on blogs and major social media sites like Twitter. As one white supremacist tweeted, "It's closed captioning for the Jew-blind.""  [in part because it's unsearchable]

A video compilation of every 3-point shot made by Shaquille O'Neal.  (n=1)

Video reminder that the Milky Way doesn't move during the night - the earth does.

An ELI5 explanation of why one web browser gives you problems, but the same link in another browser loads quickly and successfully.

The United States Department of Defense relies on floppy disks "to coordinate key strategic forces such as nuclear bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to a new government report." (hint: unhackable)

Detroit police accused of acting like "dog death squads."

The amazing Gothard Base Tunnel is now open. "With a route length of 57.09 km (35.5 mi) and a total of 151.84 km (94.3 mi) of tunnels, shafts and passages, it is the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnek and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps."

A "kosher" dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.

"How did bathrooms get to be separated by gender in the first place?"  A suggestion that" these laws were adopted as a way to further early-19th century moral ideology that dictated the appropriate role and place for women in society."

You probably don't need to take showers unless you are visibly dirty (or use all those shampoos and deodorants).

Kudos to this barber who gives free haircuts to the homeless.  Another similar barber here.

How to straighten a pig's tail.

Credits for embedded photos, top to bottom: Realgar and quartz, pyrite ammonite, malachite, native wire silver, opalized wood, fluorite with chalcopyrite, silver crystals on calcite matrix, pyrite concretion.  All via the Minerals and Crystals tumblr.

Real Life

A look at Bulgaria's "bride's market"

Every year young Roma women attend "bride markets" with the intention of getting married to the highest bidder.  "If you have gold jewelry and shoes that match your dress... the better family we come from, the higher price we get."  The average bride price is about USD$300-350.  "But it's more like massive speed-dating than the forced marriage market that the media reports."

Before going all judgemental, it's worth reflecting that brides have been "sold" by their families for centuries across many cultures.  This is a long watch (20 minutes) but I think worthwhile - very well done, and narrated with insight and empathy.

25 June 2016

Snark-hunting map

"He had bought a large map representing the sea,
    Without the least vestige of land:
And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be
    A map they could all understand.

"What's the good of Mercator's North Poles and Equators,
    Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?"
So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply
    "They are merely conventional signs!

Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
    But we've got our brave Captain to thank"
(So the crew would protest) "that he's bought us the best --
    A perfect and absolute blank!"
An excerpt from Fit the Second of The Hunting of the Snark.

23 June 2016

Brexit returns surprising so far...

This evening many sources, including the American BBC broadcast, admitted that the outcome of the voting was too close to call, but that insiders, pundits, and bookmakers were cautiously predicting a "remain" victory.

But at present (10pm CDT), with 57.6% of the vote tallied, "leave" is leading "remain" by 51.5% to 48.5%.

The pound is undergoing a severe fall, as are futures for the S&P 500 - currently implying a Dow average down 500 points at the open.

Live coverage at The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the BBC.

Fascinating.  I'm going to be up late tonight.

Addendum:  Live coverage on C-SPAN and on CNN International, and of course on BBC.  And MSNBC.  And CNBC.  Birmingham results expected in 15 minutes, and probability of "leave" winning overall is now at 80%.

Pound/dollar has plunged 10%, to lowest level in 30 years ($1.35).  And this is with London still asleep at 0430 there.

Scotland has voted - countrywide - to stay in the EU.  So if the overall vote result is to "leave," the prospect arises that another referendum will be called to vote on Scotland leaving the UK.

72% voting turnout among the electorate puts the U.S. to shame by comparison.

Addendum:  BBC and ITV have now "called" the election for "leave."  Historic.

Addendum on the morning after:   I was up until the wee hours last night listening to analysts on four different broadcasts.  There is an immense amount to read this morning.  As usual I start with the discussion threads at Reddit.  Here are several of the top-rated ones:

Cameron to resign as PM

A thread for those from other countries

Miscellaneous viewpoints and comments

And one with some humor '"if other countries leave the EU." (credit for embedded image)

No blogging today - I'll be busy surfing the web and trying to peek at the future.

22 June 2016

"To the manner born"

I spent the evening of the summer solstice sitting outdoors with a recreational beverage, reading the only first edition I own - a copy of John Dickson Carr's Speak of the Devil.

One of the secondary characters in the story, set in Regency England (1816), is H.R.H. The Prince Regent, who speaks as follows to a lady:
"A charming curtsy, b'gad! Charming!  Miss Adair, your knee -- if I may mention such a delicate subject -- is to the manner born."
(She replies "Your Royal Highness is too kind.")

It's not a phrase encountered very often on this side of the pond, and I needed to sort out in my head the distinction from the old BBC comedy "To the Manor Born."

First I generated an Ngram chart (above) with the two phrases ("manner" in blue, "manor" in red).  Then a quick visit to The Phrase Finder gave the definitive answer:
Any examination of 'to the manner born' has to include a mention of its often-quoted incarnation, 'to the manor born'. That has a similar meaning but stresses manorial birth, that is, it refers to someone born into the nobility. 

The 'manner' version is earlier and there's some debate amongst etymologists as to whether the second of these phrases was coined deliberately as a play on words, or whether it is just a misspelling of 'manner' as 'manor'. The third possibility, that they arose independently, is highly unlikely. 

'To the manner born' was used by, and probably coined by, Shakespeare, in Hamlet, 1602:
HORATIO:     Is it a custom?
HAMLET:      Ay, marry, is't:
      But to my mind, though I am native here
      And to the manner born, it is a custom
      More honour'd in the breach than the observance.
The meaning there is clear. Hamlet knows the custom being spoken of because he is native, that is, born locally. 

Hamlet was written in or around 1600 and published in 1603. The 'manor' version comes much later. The earliest reference I've found so far is in The Times, July 1859...
The article there goes on to discuss the television program and also concludes that the pre-existing concurrent existence of manner/manor is an eggcorn.

"Enhance the reflection"

Adobe Flash Player critical update recommended

As reported by Krebs On Security:
Adobe on Thursday issued a critical update for its ubiquitous Flash Player software that fixes three dozen security holes in the widely-used browser plugin, including at least one vulnerability that is already being exploited for use in targeted attacks.

The latest update brings Flash to v. for Windows and Mac users alike. If you have Flash installed, you should update, hobble or remove Flash as soon as possible.

The smartest option is probably to ditch the program once and for all and significantly increase the security of your system in the process...

If you choose to update, please do it today.
Details and resource links here.

Amazing marble machine

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