02 May 2016

How to dress up an external pipe


The artist is Joe Vollan.

Venezuela reportedly near "total collapse"

As reported in the Miami Herald:
A recent International Monetary Fund report that Venezuela will reach a 720 percent inflation rate this year — the highest in the world — has drawn a lot of media attention, but what I heard from a senior IMF economist this week was even more dramatic.

Robert K. Rennhack, deputy director of the IMF’s Western Hemisphere department, told me in an interview that Venezuela is on a path to hyperinflation — the stage where the economy reaches total chaos — and could reach a “total collapse of the economic system” in 12 to 18 months if there are no changes in economic policies...

Many Venezuelans believe the country will explode much sooner than in 12 to 18 months. Prices go up daily, supermarket shelves are near empty, there are growing electricity shortages — Maduro has declared every Friday in April and May a non-working holiday in order to save energy — and crime statistics are skyrocketing...
Here are two comments from a Reddit thread:
"Venezuelan here, living in Venezuela. I shared with you guys what life was like living in Venezuela a few months ago, but incredibly it has gotten worse. Back then we didn't have that many power outages. Now there are 4-8 hour outages everyday. Weekends start on Wednesdays. Water is coming super gross through the pipes. What I've noticed recently is that the country has nearly stopped "moving". That and you hear about looting nearly every week. Doing anything at the bank or at some public office takes you so many, unnecessary days because of the power outages. Most people I feel don't even want to work anymore now because the wages are too low and even if their wages were high there's not that much to buy. Food is the new money in Venezuela. If you have a lot of food then you are rich. It kinda feels like a Zombie Apocalypse but without the Zombies."
"I live in Venezuela and we don't even know how to prepare for what is coming. All I can do is work hard to buy as much stuff as I can and save a little bit in USD. Spending and getting into credit card debt seem like good strategies (because of the high inflation rate and a lot of things are cheaper here than abroad). However people like me don't really have a plan for when shit hits the fan. I have a large family here, so feel responsible for them so I won't leave the country. I have a good job and I'm able to buy the food my family requires. But still, I wonder how should I prepare..."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/andres-oppenheimer/article73657547.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/andres-oppenheimer/article73657547.html#storylink=cpy
And this from the Washington Post:
Venezuela, a country of 30 million that despite holding the world’s largest oil reserves has descended into a dystopia where food, medicine, water and electric power are critically scarce. Riots and looting broke out in several blacked-out cities last week, forcing the deployment of troops. A nation that 35 years ago was the richest in Latin America is now appealing to its neighbors for humanitarian deliveries to prevent epidemics and hunger.

The regime that fostered this nightmare, headed by Hugo Chávez until his death in 2013, is on the way out: It cannot survive the economic crisis and mass discontent it has created. The question is whether the change will come relatively peacefully or through an upheaval that could turn Venezuela into a failed state and destabilize much of the region around it.

Buugeng manipulation


Why sugar is added to commercial salt


Explained by a professor of food science:
What really piqued my curiosity was the inclusion of “sugar”... Including only about four one-hundredths of a percent (i.e., 0.04%) of this additive protects or stabilizes the potassium iodide. If no glucose was present, the potassium iodide would eventually break down into its component parts - namely potassium and iodide ions. The iodide ions could then combine to form iodine that could actually vaporize and leave the salt.
Image cropped for size and color-corrected from the original.

Some modern toilets are set at "comfort height"

The Kohler company has a rather informative webpage entitled "How to shop for toilets."  Among the features to be considered (size, shape, water usage, flush technology) when making a purchase is the height of the seat from the floor.
Comfort Height toilets, approximately 2 inches taller than traditional toilets, make sitting down and standing up easier. Toilets that measure between 17 and 19 inches in height from the floor to the top
of the seat are considered Comfort Height toilets, whereas traditional toilets measure below 17 inches in height.
A quick web search yields lots of threads discussing the pros and cons of these higher toilets.  The user's height and a variety of health considerations can come into play (short people may be uncomfortable if their feet do not rest flat on the floor; conversely elderly or physically weak persons may find it easier to rise from the "comfort height" seat.  A column at Slate notes that "bathroom posture" (sitting vs. squatting) may (or may not) have an effect on defecation and on the health of one's nether region.

The American Dental Association sent its members malware


As reported by Krebs on Security:
The problem first came to light in a post on the DSL Reports Security ForumDSLR member “Mike” from Pittsburgh got curious about the integrity of a USB drive that the ADA mailed to members to share updated “dental procedure codes” — codes that dental offices use to track procedures for billing and insurance purposes.

“Oh wow the usually inept ADA just sent me new codes,” Mike wrote. “I bet some marketing genius had this wonderful idea instead of making it downloadable. I can’t wait to plug an unknown USB into my computer that has PHI/HIPAA on it…” [link added].

Sure enough, Mike looked at the code inside one of the files on the flash drive and found it tries to open a Web page that has long been tied to malware distribution. The domain is used by crooks to infect visitors with malware that lets the attackers gain full control of the infected Windows computer...

In response to questions from this author, the ADA said the USB media was manufactured in China by a subcontractor of an ADA vendor, and that some 37,000 of the devices have been distributed.
More information at the link.

28 April 2016

She was fired for saying the word "vagina" without previous approval

Allison Wint, a substitute teacher at a middle school in Battle Creek, Mich., told the Detroit Free Press that she was hoping to provoke a thoughtful dialogue about historical interpretations of O’Keeffe’s work on Friday when she used the word “vagina” during a discussion with eighth graders...

Wint told the Free Press that, in total, she estimates she used the word 10 times during the course of the lecture, prompting giggles from her students, but eventually a substantive discussion...

The next day, according to Wint, she was reprimanded by a school official, who noted that she had said the word “vagina … without previous approval.”

The official told her that referring to female reproductive organs without approval violated school policy, Wint told the Free Press.

She told the paper that she was instructed to gather her belongings and leave the school within one hour.
Good thing they got her out of the school "within one hour."  No telling how much damage she might have inflicted had she stayed until the end of the day.

Re the painting:
Flower of Life II - along with many to follow - presented the sexual anatomy of the flower in sharp focus. By drawing attention to the inherent androgyny of this subject, O'Keeffe could have been attempting to contradict the critical notion that her subject matter was related exclusively to her gender.

But if so, the critics in 1925 missed O'Keeffe's point (as most still do). They interpreted her flowers as they had interpreted her earlier abstractions, as expressions of her sexuality. In 1943, O'Keeffe finally responded: Well - I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower - and I don't. ”

Spanish accents


Test your ability to distinguish Spanish accents by taking the test here (the image above is just a screencap).  I was correct on 6 of the 26 examples (equivalent to random chance); my expat cousin in Barcelona hit 50%.  Feel free to post your scores in the Comments.

How military "tanks" got their name

The British developed the tank in response to the trench warfare of World War I. In 1914, a British army colonel named Ernest Swinton and William Hankey, secretary of the Committee for Imperial Defence, championed the idea of an armored vehicle with conveyor-belt-like tracks over its wheels that could break through enemy lines and traverse difficult territory. The men appealed to British navy minister Winston Churchill, who believed in the concept of a “land boat” and organized a Landships Committee to begin developing a prototype. To keep the project secret from enemies, production workers were reportedly told the vehicles they were building would be used to carry water on the battlefield (alternate theories suggest the shells of the new vehicles resembled water tanks). Either way, the new vehicles were shipped in crates labeled “tank” and the name stuck.
With a tip of the blogging hat to the elves at NSTAAF.

Official trailer for "Snowden"

Bison s/p lightning strike

While doing a survey of bison on the refuge in late July 2013, Wildlife Biologist Karen Viste-Sparkman noticed a bull standing by himself. On closer inspection, it was clear that he had been struck by lightning and burned over a large area of his body. “Sparky” was thin after the strike and wasn't expected to live long. Since a lightning strike is something that could happen to wild bison anywhere, the refuge let nature take its course. But two years later, Sparky is going strong!

Sparky is just one of the bison that call Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge home. The refuge was established to protect, restore, reconstruct and manage the diverse native ecosystems of tallgrass prairie, oak savanna and sedge meadow.
The rest of the story is at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.   Photo credit Karen Viste-Sparkman/USFWS.

This fracking river is on fire

"Gas first started bubbling though the river shortly after the coal seam gas industry took off in the Chinchilla area. Since then the volume of gas bubbling through the river has massively increased and has spread along the river.

You can see stakes in the river bank were the Queensland Government has marked each gas seep. You can also see pipework near the river where Origin Energy has installed for monitoring the gas bubbling through the river."

Donald and Melania Trump

One excerpt from an extended biography of a potential First Lady:
Melania is as fastidious a wife as she is a mother, which Donald appreciates. Things come easy with her. “I work very hard from early in the morning till late in the evening,” Donald told Larry King in 2005. “I don’t want to go home and work at a relationship.” To the twice-divorced Donald, Melania is terrific. He’s never heard her fart or make doodie, as he once told Howard Stern. (Melania has said the key to the success of her marriage is separate bathrooms.) He can trust her to take her birth control every day, he boasted to Stern; she’s just amazing that way. She has the perfect proportions—five feet eleven, 125 pounds—and great boobs, which is no trivial matter. Stern once asked Trump what he would do if Melania were in a terrible car accident, God forbid, and lost the use of her left arm, developed an oozing red splotch near her eye, and mangled her left foot. Would Donald stay with her?
“How do the breasts look?” Trump asked.
“The breasts are okay,” Stern replied. Then, yeah, of course Trump stays. “Because that’s important.”
I'll defer any commentary.

25 April 2016

This is not a long-legged fox


It's a "maned wolf."  But it's not a wolf.

It is the unique entity in the genus Chrysocyon.  "There are no known extant or extinct species that come close" (because it's the only one that survived the mass extinctions of the Pleistocene).

Explained at Biomedical Ephemera, or: A Frog For Your Boils.

Addendum:  The evolutionary advantage of those long legs can be seen in this video of it in its natural environment (hat tip to Brazilian reader Binho).

NASA video of global carbon dioxide dynamics


 Via the Curiously Krulwich column at National Geographic, where the phenomenon is explained.
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