25 September 2017

CCC spillway at Pope Farm Conservancy (Wisconsin)

The first seventeen entries in my ongoing series of posts about the stonework of the Civilian Conservation Corps featured structures situated in state and national parks - bridges, ramparts, towers, stairways and other substantial achievements.  Stonework of that type has been well preserved because of the locations and ongoing usefulness of the structures.

But the boys in the CCC also did an immense amount of work in fire prevention (fire breaks, lookout towers), reforestation, water control (dams, reservoirs) and soil conservation.   The structure in the photo above is one of probably thousands of such water/soil conservation measures that have been generally forgotten (and in most cases left to fall into disrepair).

I encountered this stonework while hiking at the Pope Farm Conservancy, a working farm with restored natural areas located in the western suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin.  I had visited there last year to photograph and blog the remarkable display of sunflowers.

On my recent visit I explored a different part of the property, where hiking trails had been carved out of restored short-grass prairie:

Without a panorama image it's hard to depict the rolling contour in this area created by deposition of sand during the terminal phase of the last glaciation.  The hill in front of me (above) is a terminal moraine.  To the right of the photo the land slopes downward, then back up again to a broad "bowl" currently covered by cropland and native prairie.

Prior to the arrival of European immigrants, a basin like this would have been covered with either long grasses or short grasses -

Prairie grasses evolved immense root systems that enabled them to regrow after intensive grazing by massive herds of bison, or after wildfires or drought.  What they couldn't survive was the introduction of intensive farming, and especially the cutting power of steam- or gasoline-powered tractors.  I don't need to repeat here the familiar sequence of stripping vegetation to plant crops, followed by topsoil erosion by wind and water.

By the 1930s a basin such as the one above would have been deeply gullied by rainwater and snowmelt and the runoff would have been choking local streams with sediment.  Teams of CCC boys were mobilized to correct these problems on a farm-by-farm basis.

All you see now at the base of the "bowl" is this concrete structure:

This is a simple, but perfectly adequate spillway.
"This dam design, called a head flume, was suggested by UW-Madison soils and agriculture professor Otto Zeasman.  It was simple because the intent was merely to slow the flow of water during times of heavy rain and runoff."
To the left and right of the downsloping segment are short concrete walls and then earthen berns, which direct water to the center:

The chute prevents ground erosion as it conducts the water down the steepest part of the slope.  At the base of the chute (hard to see with summer vegetation overgrowth) is a triangular concrete "velocity check" structure, and behind that a pile of large boulders in the "stilling basin":

These components of the spillway absorb the kinetic energy of the falling water, which then proceeds down the ravine in the background with much less erosive force (cutting the velocity in half reduces erosion by a factor of 64 according to the information on a local informational placard).  Another placard notes:
"Construction of the dam began in late summer 1938.  A CCC crew of about a dozen young men needed about 2-3 weeks to finish the project.  Other "soil saving" dams of the Great Depression era are quietly deteriorating in farm fields all over Wisconsin.  Still others have been removed.  This structure on the Pope Farm Conservancy site is the only one in south-central Wisconsin (and perhaps the entire state) that is being protected as an historic landmark."
Kudos to the Pope Farm Conservancy for their stewardship of the land and the preservation of this example of a simple structure that helped rural farms recover from the devastating effects of the Great Depression and the Dustbowl.

24 September 2017

Sixty years ago

It was September 1957, the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, and nine black pupils little guessed they were about to plant a milestone in the struggle for civil rights...

On the first day of term, the national guard were there to stop the nine entering Central High, where all 1,900 attendees were white. Three weeks later, on 25 September, the group braved a hostile white crowd, climbed the school steps and were escorted to class by US army troops. They became known and revered as the Little Rock Nine... 

On 23 September 1957, the group did get into the building with police protection. But an angry mob of more than a thousand white people had gathered in front of the school, chanting racist abuse such as “Go back to Africa”. “I really think that we were afraid to look at the mob; at least I was,” says Trickey. “So we just heard it and it was like a sports event, that sound, the roar, but it was a roar of hatred, and just thinking about it makes me shake.”...

The mob started a riot and police decided to remove the students for their own safety. “At about 10am they said: ‘You’ve got to come down to the office,’ and we went down into the basement. They put us in these cars and the cops driving the cars were shaking. They had the guns and sticks and they were scared. ‘Oh wow, this is scary.’ Some of us were told to keep our heads down...

The crisis was cause for Washington to intervene. President Dwight Eisenhower sent in 1,200 paratroopers from the 101st airborne division. The soldiers escorted the students single file into the school for their first full day of classes and dispersed the demonstrators. The US’s racial shame had been exposed, shown on TV and reported in newspapers around the world. 
More at The Guardian


Another blog entry inspired by a crossword puzzle clue.  If I had spent all day pondering 8-letter words describing a praying mantis, I would never have some up with this one.  So I had to Ask An Entomologist:
Why do Mantids Only Have One Ear?

Mantids only have one ear, located in the middle of their [chest between the] middle and hind legs. It’s split in half, but both halves function as a single unit. There’s a single neuron which connects them, and it fires if either half ‘hears’ anything. In essence, they only have one ear. 
This is followed by speculation about why the structure evolved this way.  And one anecdote:
"Taylor Swift’s first job was picking mantis egg cases off Christmas trees to keep them from hatching in the houses of customers."
You learn something every day.


From a photoessay at Vantage:
The premise of Half Drag is simple. Photographer Leland Bobbé’s striking, gender-bending photo series captures New York City drag queens with half of their faces done up in full regalia, the other half au naturel. The result, achieved without any digital effects, is a collection of portraits that put the visual iconography of gender into striking juxtaposition...

... Bobbé suggests holding up a card (or just your hand) to cover one side of each image at a time. The contrast is startling. “People have told me that the male sides in these photos seem vulnerable, the female side with the makeup and jewelry are so powerful,” he says...

The models he photographed came into the studio wearing regular clothes, with several days of facial growth. They then shaved half their faces, and prepared their own hair and makeup. The hair proved to be the hardest part of the process.

“One came in and cut the wig down the middle,” Bobbé says. “Stray hairs would get over to the male side, that’s why the images are all cropped into the forehead, on top of the head are a lot of pins holding everything in place.”
More discussion and portraits at the link.



I was reminded of this song when "Hoople" appeared as a crossword entry this past week.  And since I'd never been able to quite decipher all the words, I sought out this lyrics-annotated version.
"All the Young Dudes" is a song written by David Bowie, originally recorded and released as a single by Mott the Hoople in 1972. In 2004, Rolling Stone rated "All the Young Dudes" No. 253 in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time... It is also one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Bowie himself once claimed that the song was not intended to be an anthem for glam, that it actually carried a darker message of apocalypse. According to an interview Bowie gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 1973, the boys are carrying the same news that the newscaster was carrying in the song "Five Years" from Ziggy Stardust; the news being the fact that the Earth had only five years left to live. Bowie explains: "All the Young Dudes is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth, as people thought. It is completely the opposite."

The original Mott the Hoople release had to be changed lyrically in order that it might be played on UK radio and TV. The line in the second verse: "Wendy's stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks" was a reference to UK retailer Marks & Spencer, also known by that colloquialism. As such, air play of the song in its original form would have breached broadcasting regulations relating to advertising in force at the time. The line was replaced with: "Wendy's stealing clothes from unlocked cars". Today, both versions are freely aired.

23 September 2017

Divertimento #135

Horse plays with a woman's zipper.

Toddler scared of her shadow.

Labrador dog comforts a child.

Baseball trick.

Grebe courtship dance.

Geometry of bubbles.

"Horse fences tick so it isn't a constant stream of electricity, so that is why they didn't immediately get zapped and had to wait for the next tick to get shocked."

It's a trap!

Leopard frogs view worm video.

Car soccer.

Feeding frenzy on a chicken farm.

"Beast mode on" (soccer)

"When the food fights back"

How an eel's double jaw works.

Cats are capable of performing amazing jumps.

Traffic shockwave.

Ants spraying formic acid.

Application of piping.   And cake decorating.

Magnetic building blocks.

A tortoise races a hare.

I didn't know guinea pigs can jump.  You learn something every day.

Anna's hummingbird, up close and personal.

Described as the "headis world championship."

Machine separates red and green tomatoes.

Dog climbs vertical wall.

Watch a tire cross the road.  No - actually, don't watch...

Clever design for a corner cabinet.

Another clever design: a "tambour door" (I remember these from the 1950s)

A softshell turtle is fast in the waterAnd on land.

Do NOT spray "silly slime" around open flames.  (trigger warning: child's hair in flames)

An "own goal" in ice hockey.

Bird has learned how to trigger a door's motion sensor.

Whale shark pup rescued and released.

How to get a balloon down from the ceiling.  First, find a little girl...

Eleven flips on an exercise ball (not a "fail video")

Juggling tables with your feet.

Why some spacecraft orbits look like sine waves.

Close call for a dog swimming in a Florida lagoon.

Can this man jump across a swimming pool from a standing start?

Girl standing and spinning on bicycle handlebars.

Squirrel escapes with a clever plan rather than blind panic.


Distract the dog with peanut butter.

A father built a "ninja warrior" course for his young daughter.  Impressive...

Baby spiny flower mantids.

Table becomes shelves.  Clever - but useful??

Wakeboarding with a beer.

Pickpocket caught red-handed.

You've heard of "instant karma."  THIS is instant karma.  Or perhaps "carma."

Lightning debarking a tree.  Wow.  Just wow.

btw, there is an entire subreddit devoted to Mechanical GIFs, if you want to waste the rest of your day...

Today's embedded photos are of barn quilts, from a gallery at Madison.com depicting some of the over 300 barn quilts in Shawano County, Wisconsin. (photo credits Jim Leuenberger; originals at Houzz).

21 September 2017

Octopus candleholder

Found at the Crafts subreddit.

Ectopia cordis

Colloquially "heart outside the chest."  This young girl has the Pentalogy of Cantrell:
Link to the BBC program.  More on ectopia cordis.

Your tax money at work

President Donald Trump's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, is facing intense criticism due to the revelation that he used private jets on at least five occasions for official business, adding tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for American taxpayers in the process.

Price took five flights between Sept. 13 and Sept. 15 to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania for various health care-related events, according to Politico. His predecessors under President Barack Obama, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, used commercial jets when flying within the continental United States.

On one occasion, Price took a charter flight from the Washington-area Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia International Airport, costing taxpayers roughly $25,000. A flight on United Airlines was leaving at roughly the same time and would have cost only $447 to $725 per person, Politico noted. There were also four Amtrak trains that Price could have taken, which would have gotten him to Philadelphia on time; the cheapest train could cost $72 in advance. And, of course, he could have driven the 125-mile trip, taking about 2 1/2 hours, according to Politico.
Additional details at Salon.

If you want a real rant on this topic, read How the one percent put the fix in at 30,000 feet.
"Time is money, and the wealthy and their political lackeys have been able to use the one to buy the other with their Gulfstreams and Falcons and Bombardiers. They don’t wait in line. Nobody tells them to turn off their cell phones and other electronic devices. A big black car drops them off at the steps to a gleaming jet and moments later, they’re aloft, above the fray, flying over the heads of the rest of us plebes down here dragging our crummy carry-ons and sweating out whether we remembered to take that damn bottle of mouthwash and transfer three ounces of it into a little travel bottle and stick that goddamned thing in a fucking plastic bag, or somebody in dark trousers and a blue shirt is going to tell us to open our bag and go jamming their hands in our underwear and socks until they come up with the offending bottle of dangerous mouthwash so we can be given the choice of going back to the counter and checking it, or throwing the damn stuff in the nearby trash bin supplied for just that purpose."
Way more at the link.

A transcript of Jon Stewart's final soliloquy

Jon Stewart ended his remarkable sixteen years on television with one final series of incisive comments to his viewers.  I haven't found an "official" transcript of the video, so here is my best effort in that regard (boldface, formatting, and links added by me):
Bullshit is everywhere.

There is very little that you will encounter in life that has not been, in some ways, infused with bullshit - not all of it bad. General day-to-day organic free-range bullshit is often necessary, or at the very least innocuous. "Oh, what a beautiful baby. I'm sure he'll grow into that head."

That kind of bullshit in many ways provides important social contract fertilizer that keeps people from making each other cry all day.

But then there's the more pernicious bullshit, your premeditated institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract.  Designed by whom? The bullshit talkers.

Comes in three basic flavors:  One - making bad things sound like good things.
"Organic all-natural cupcakes." Because "factory-made sugar oatmeal balls" doesn't sell.

"Patriot Act," because "Are You Scared Enough To Let Me Look At All Your Phone Records Act," doesn't sell.

Whenever something's been titled Freedom, Fairness, Family, Health, and America, take a good long sniff. Chances are it's been manufactured in a facility that may contain traces of bullshit.
Number Two, the second way - hiding the bad things under mountains of bullshit.
Complexity - you know, "I would love to download Drizzy's latest Meek Mill diss." (Everyone promised me that that made sense.)  "But I'm not really interested right now in reading Tolstoy's ITunes agreement, so I'll just click "Agree" even if it grants Apple prima noctae with my spouse."

Here's another one - simply put, simply put - banks shouldn't be able to bet your pension money on red.

Bullshitly put, it's... hey, this. Dodd-Frank.

"Hey, a handful of billionaires can't buy our elections, right?"  "Of course not. They can only pour unlimited anonymous cash into a 501c4 if 50% is devoted to issue education; otherwise they'd have to 501c6 it or funnel it openly through a non-campaign-coordinating superpac with a quarter...  I think they're asleep now. We can sneak out."
And finally, finally, it's The Bullshit of Infinite Possibility.
These bullshitters cover their unwillingness to act under the guise of unending inquiry.

"We can't do anything because we don't yet know everything."

"We cannot take action on climate change until everyone in the world agrees gay marriage vaccines won't cause our children to marry goats who are going to come for our guns.  Until then, I say "teach the controversy."
Now, the good news is this: bullshitters have gotten pretty lazy, and their work is easily detected.

And looking for it is kind of a pleasant way to pass the time - like an "I Spy" of bullshit.

So I say to you tonight, friends - the best defense against bullshit is vigilance.

So if you smell something, say something.
TYWKIWDBI embeds this image in selected posts for that purpose -

Reposted from 2015.  The video has undergone linkrot, but the text is still relevant to today's world.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

Photographed yesterday nectaring on the last blossoms of our rue.  Not as sharp as I'd like the photo to be, but not bad for a cellphone image.

The main website for butterfly sightings in Wisconsin is getting numerous reports of large numbers of Painted Ladies.  Earlier this week I received an email from a friend up in Walker, Minnesota who photographed a group of at least 70 of these butterflies nectaring in her front garden. 

Happy Afghan child

Posted because Americans seldom see those words written together.

Via Reddit, where the photo location is noted as being set up for raisin-processing.

"Isle of Dogs" trailer


Has overtones of Wall-E.   Interesting that there are eleven actors from his Grand Budapest Hotel who provide voices for this animation. 

18 September 2017

The world has an abundance of "Devil's Bridges"

The one in the photo above (that doesn't look real...) is the Rakotzbrücke at the Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau (Germany).  (summer photo)
Devil's Bridge is a term applied to dozens of ancient bridges, found primarily in Europe. Most of these bridges are stone or masonry arch bridges and represent a significant technological achievement. Each of the Devil's Bridges has a corresponding Devil-related myth or folktale. Local lore often wrongly attributes these bridges to the Roman era, but in fact many of them are medieval, having been built between 1000 and 1600 AD. In medieval times some Roman roads were themselves considered beyond human capabilities and needs, and therefore had to have been built by the devil.
List of such bridges and some legends at the link.

Is this the "worst ever" legend for a bar graph?

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