16 October 2017

HIgh school pep rally


When I was in high school, a pep rally consisted of two or three girls waving pom-poms and trying unsuccessfully to get a small crowd to yell "Win team win."  Times have changed.

Some serious planning, choreography and hundreds of hours of practice must have gone into this routine at Walden Grove High School, Sahuarita Arizona.  Worth a few minutes of your time unless you are a complete grouch.  And probably worth clicking the full-screen icon.

Via Boing Boing.

15 October 2017

Why is this image distorted?

This is the greenside area of the third hole at Tianna Country Club in Walker, Minnesota.  The ripples from my failed approach shot have faded away.  What interests me is the birch trees and their reflection in the pond.  In real life they were perfectly upright.

I photographed the scene with my iPhone SE, which has a fairly wide-angle built-in lens (29mm I think), but I don't remember encountering this much distortion using wide-angle lenses on my old film and digital cameras.

I've encountered obvious distortion with this phone taking panorama images, but this was a conventional one.  I need some education on the "why" and any coping techniques, and I figure asking the readership here will be faster than searching the 'net.  Thanks in advance.


Found crawling on my jeans in the woods of northern Minnesota.  I should have placed him on my walking stick for the photo.

Fascinating creatures; I'm recurrently amazed that they are capable of flying.

"Please excuse Gene"

Photographed at the museum of the Pine County (MN) Historical Society.  Highly recommended for a day trip with lunch in their cafe.

Vintage horsefly blanket

To anyone who has been around horses (or horseflies), the image speaks for itself.

Modern versions seem to be made of plastic or fabric.  I found a vintage one for sale on eBay made of leather.  This one appeared to be made of coarse string or yarn.  In the pre-plastic era this would probably be cooler than a fabric blanket.

Photographed at the museum of the Pine County (MN) Historical Society.  Highly recommended for a day trip with lunch in their cafe.

This is a "fire grenade"

"We found several of these old fire grenades in the attic of a large, old house in Edina [a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota]. It's a glass bulb filled with carbon tetrachloride, and was supposed to be thrown at the base of a fire to help put it out.

They were withdrawn in the 1950s because the chemical is toxic, and heat from fires can apparently turn the chemical into phosgene gas.
Found among the Fun home inspection photos from 2016.

Addendum:  Similar (but safer) products are still being manufactured and used.

Video of fire grenades being used.  The explanations I've seen about these tend to explain their efficacy as being a result of the gases produced, but I think not enough emphasis is given to the effects of the concussive explosion along as a fire-suppressant.

Reposted to add this photo I took at the Pine County Historical Society museum in Askov, Minnesota:

 Excellent museum, BTW...

07 October 2017


'Tis the season to start putting the gardens to bed for the winter, watch football games, play some last golf, and do some leafpeeping. 

Back in about a week.

06 October 2017

"Steve" is a new type of Northern Lights

You might wonder what Steve means. At first it didn't mean anything. It was just a name. Steve comes from the animated movie Over The Hedge. In the movie, the main characters were watching bushes rustle. Out came an animal that they didn't know. So they named it Steve.

That's how Steve, the new type of northern lights, got its name. Citizen scientists took a few photos of Steve and showed the photos to NASA scientists. NASA scientists initially couldn't explain the newly discovered aurora type, so they all decided on naming it Steve for now.
NASA scientists have now created a "backronym" - Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.
NASA has set up a project called Aurorasaurus. At Aurorasaurus, you can see where the northern lights are predicted to be located in the near future, and actual reports of the northern lights from people around the world.

"Crazy Hair Day" at school

Found in the Funny subreddit.

See also Not a Dress Code Violation (2015)

Also this one.

Peacock spiders dance

From Live Science:
They're peacock spiders, a group of tiny arachnids that are small in stature but giants in the charisma department, best known for their brilliant colors and energetic courtship "dances" — much like the showy, fan-tailed peacocks that inspired the spiders' name.

And scientists recently described seven new peacock spider species — so let the spider dance party commence! [In Photos: 7 New Species of Peacock Spider]

Researchers found the newly described species — all of which were in the genus Maratus — in Western Australia and South Australia, bringing the total number of known Maratus species to 48. The spiders in this genus measure on average about 0.16 to 0.20 inches (4 to 5 millimeters) in length, with females a bit larger than the males.

Females that belong to this genus tend to be dappled in different shades of brown. But it's the males' dramatic coloration that catches the eye and prompts biologists to assign them whimsical nicknames like "Sparklemuffin," which was bestowed upon a peacock spider species described in 2015. Colors and patterns are displayed on the males' abdomens, frequently on a "fan" — a flat structure that is lifted up toward the female during the male's courtship performance.
More information at the Live Science link and in the video at the next post.

Mating rituals of the Peacock Spider

Remarkable (if somewhat redundant) footage of a tiny (4 mm.) Australian spider.  The coloration and the dance of the male spider are quite extraordinary.

Credit Catalyst via Neatorama.

 Reposted from 2011 to accompany the adjacent post.

Same old, same old

Excerpts from Harper's Weekly Review:
It was reported that the “police profile” of a mass shooter in the United States, of whom at least 56 percent have been white and 97 percent have been male, was not “fit” by the Las Vegas gunman, a white, male, reclusive, itinerant, high-stakes gambler who had purchased 33 guns in the previous year....

The White House press secretary said “it would be premature” to talk about gun control; US president Donald Trump said that he was “not going to talk about” gun control; and a 60-year-old man in New York shot and killed his 27-year-old disabled daughter with a shotgun in his back yard and then shot and killed himself, a 46-year-old woman was shot and killed in her mobile home in Florida, a 40-year-old man was shot and killed in a house in Maryland, a 52-year-old man in Louisiana was shot and killed in his back yard, four people attending a vigil for a 30-year-old woman who was shot and killed in Florida were then shot by an unknown assailant, a twentysomething man in Tennessee was shot and killed outside the group home for disabled adults where he worked, a 25-year-old man in Georgia was shot and killed during a bar fight, a 27-year-old man in Michigan was shot and killed while walking his dogs, a 22-year-old man was shot and killed in his kitchen in Michigan while showing a visitor his gun, a two-year-old in Illinois was shot by an unknown assailant while the car the child was riding in was stopped at a red light, a construction worker in New York was shot and killed on the 37th floor of an unfinished building by a co-worker who then shot and killed himself on the fifth floor, an 18-year-old boy in New York was shot and killed three blocks from his home, a 14-year-old boy in Washington was shot and killed by a 13-year-old boy with a handgun he had borrowed from a 12-year-old, and, in Utah, a video was released of a police officer fatally shooting a black man who was running away after being pulled over for erratically riding his bicycle without a rear reflector. “Deadly force,” said the district attorney on the case, “was justified.”
More at the link.   Comments blocked because there's nothing more to be said that hasn't been said before.

Today (10/6) is Mad Hatter Day

Explained here:
Mad Hatter Day is 10/6. The date was chosen from the illustrations by John Tenniel in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, wherein the Mad Hatter is always seen wearing a hat bearing a slip of paper with the notation "In this style 10/6". We take this as inspiration to behave in the style of the Mad Hatter on 10/6 (which is October 6 here, although in Britain MadHatterDay occurs on June 10...but I digress...)

Mad Hatter Day began in Boulder, CO, in 1986, among some computer folk who had nothing better to do. It was immediately recognized as valuable because they caused less damage than if they'd been doing their jobs.
As I searched this topic on the 'net today, it was interesting to see how many observers misinterpret the 10/6 on his hat as being either a style number ("The Mad Hatter’s top hat, according to Lewis Carroll, was of the 10/6 style") or worse ("my birthdate (10/6) is on his hat although I think that is his hat size!"). The correct interpretation, of course, is that "the paper in the Mad Hatter's Hat was really an order to make a hat in the style shown, to cost ten shillings sixpence."


05 October 2017

Divertimento #136

This is not a gifdump.  The links are full-length articles and longreads.  Get ready for a long session...

The BBC's "Top 100 Books You Need To Read Before You Die."

A San Francisco woman received a lifetime bus pass - on her 103rd birthday.

"At the US border, the searching of electronic devices, including smartphones, is allowed as part of inspection. Warrantless searches on phones are also allowed at the Canadian border."

How to remove tourists from your travel photos: (example)
  1. Set your camera on a tripod.
  2. Take a picture about every 10 seconds until you have about 15 shots.
  3. Open all the images in Photoshop by going to File> Scripts> Statistics. Choose "median" and select the files you took.
  4. Photoshop finds what is different in the photos and simply removes it.
"When anyone tells you that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, ask them about this." (the text of the Articles of Secession)

NASA has a plan to counteract a supervolcano like the one at Yellowstone: "They believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the supervolcano, and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano." (and the extracted heat can be used to generate electric power).

Baseball fans (only) will want to read about the "Skunk in the outfield" play.  A play that lasted two and a half minutes, with a baserunner out in right field (legally).  Remarkable.

Also for baseball fans only:  "The saddest plate appearance of all time."  ("You're a pitcher. You're pitching against someone who has never batted before, and isn't even trying to swing. All you have to do is throw three strikes over the plate. Don't screw this up.")

"Talia Rappa and Skyler Ashworth spotted a nondescript box at a Florida thrift store's going-out-of-business sale. They found five NASA flight suits, worth tens of thousands of dollars, and paid just $1.20 for the lot."

"If you buy yourself a luxury watch, make sure to hold onto the box, receipt and certification of authenticity. It could REALLY pay off in the long run."

Read this if you eat cereal for breakfast. "Cereal was not always the morning staple that it is today. It only became so at about the same time that our health problems began to be documented, in the 1960s. A coincidence?"

A man and his dog on a rainy day.

Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.  "Start edible doses very small—not more than half of what’s recommended on any label. Then allow roughly double the time you might expect for it to clear your system before you need to do anything where you need to use your brain."

"For many years, rumors have gone around that Fred McFeely Rogers (Mr. Rogers) flipped kids off on his tv show. The truth is, he did…inadvertently. He was singing “Where is Thumbkin” with children and, when he got to Tall-Man, he proudly displayed his middle fingers…because that’s how the song played out." (gif at the link)

A New York Times article about downsizing.

How to make maple syrup snow candy.

A "frost strip" on a bar keeps drinks cold.

Robert Bobroczky is a high-school basketball player who is 7 feet 7 inches tall.  As a freshman.  Apparently it's genetic, not hormonal (his father was over 7 feet tall, his mom about 6 feet).

Sand timers used for magic tricks.

An engrossing and disturbing longread about Memorial Hospital (New Orleans) during Hurricane Katrina addresses the question as to whether patients there were euthanized.  This topic has also the subject matter for an outstanding episode of This American Life.

Remarkable side-by-side footage of Houston before and during Hurricane Harvey.  And a quote from a related story: "“Not sure how they can call it a 500-year flood, when we haven’t even been a country for 500 years,” said Harper, who nonetheless credited county officials for an efficient and orderly evacuation process."

Cards Against Humanity offers to sell people nothing for $5.  "In the end, we made a windfall profit of $71,145."

"Business Insider went out onto the streets of NYC and tried to buy people’s just-purchased Powerball tickets ahead of the $700 million drawing. They did not get many takers, even when offering twice the price they paid." Note that anyone who accepted the offer could have just turned around and bought twice as many tickets and improved their odds of winning.  But people didn't.

Here's a dossier on Joe Arpaio.

"Today, Symantec published research showing that a group they've dubbed Dragonfly 2.0 has gained access to more than 20 power companies' networks in the US and Europe; a "handful" of the US companies are so compromised that the hackers can just turn off the power at will."

Those who are interested in doomsday scenarios probably already know the potential consequences of an electromagnetic pulse.  "After the surge, telecom switches and internet routers are dead. Air-traffic control is down. Within a day, some shoppers in supermarkets turn to looting (many, unable to use credit and debit cards, cannot pay even if they wanted to). After two days, market shelves are bare. On the third day, backup diesel generators begin to sputter out. Though fuel cannot be pumped, siphoning from vehicles, authorised by martial law, keeps most prisons, police stations and hospitals running for another week...With many troops overseas or tasked with deterring land grabs from opportunist foreign powers, there is only one American “peacekeeper” soldier for every 360 or so civilians. Pillaging accelerates..."

"At the Minnesota State Fair, the Sweet Martha's operation can now produce up to 3 million cookies on its busiest day. "  They are served in buckets that are overflowing with chocolate chip cookies.

Vintage vending machines.

Mathematicians have a sense of humor.

A young, handsome Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I thought I knew a lot of medicine, but I never knew (or imagined) that there had been a successfull full-term hepatic pregnancy (an extrauterine pregnancy where the fetus develops in the liver).  Holy cow.  You learn something every day.

Surf this comment thread about "the best advice you've ever received on how to make a sandwich better."

Deaf people explain how to sign curse words.  I need to remember the "bullshit" one.

A list of world championships in mind sports.

During the hurricanes there were several interesting articles about floating masses of fire antsHere and here and here.

A dossier on Rush Limbaugh.

For football fans only:  Louisiana Tech loses 87 yards on one play. (video here)

China plans to ban petrol and diesel cars.  Other countries have similar plans.

More than you need to know about finding a bathroom at a football game.

If you are a traveler, you should acquaint yourself with the takeout menu scam.  Don't order delivery food from a menu left at your hotel or motel room.


The embedded images today are of lichens (credit Jana Kocourkov√°), via Boing Boing, where there is a large gallery.

Worldwide slaughter of pangolins

From a report at The Guardian:
The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species...

A total ban on the international trade in any pangolin species was passed by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species in September. But Ingram said the enforcement of both international and national laws had to be increased to prevent African pangolins following their Asian cousins on the path to extinction.

The demand in Asia for pangolin meat and scales as delicacies and supposed medicinal uses is a major factor in cross-border trade but a significant proportion of African pangolins are eaten locally. Ingram said that measures are also needed to develop alternative livelihoods for African hunters of pangolin...
More from Wikipedia:
The pangolin trade is centuries old. An early known example is in 1820, when Francis Rawdon, 1st Marquis of Hastinges and East India Company Governor General in Bengal, presented King George III with a coat and helmet made with the scales of Manis crassicaudata [low-res photo at the link]. The gifts are now stored in the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

The pangolins are boiled to remove the scales, which are then dried and roasted, then sold based on claims that they can stimulate lactation, help to drain pus, and relieve skin diseases or palsy. As of 2015, pangolin scales were covered under some health insurance plans in Vietnam.

The scales can cost more than $3,000/kg on the black market.
GIF of a pandolin.
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