30 November 2010

Teaser trailer for Jane Eyre (2011)

That's Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) in the title role of what I believe is the sixth major movie version of Jane Eyre.  It appears to be beautifully filmed and acted.  Due to be released on March 11.

Found at Camille Reads...

Body jewelry

Found at Maisie.

Offered without comment

Found at Maisie.

An interview with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

From an interview by Andy Greenberg, posted at Forbes:
In a rare, two-hour interview conducted in London on November 11, Assange said that he’s still sitting on a trove of secret documents, about half of which relate to the private sector. And WikiLeaks’ next target will be a major American bank. “It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume,” he said, adding: “For this, there’s only one similar example. It’s like the Enron emails.”

You once said to one of my colleagues that WikiLeaks has material on BP. What have you got?

We’ve got lots now, but we haven’t determined how much is original. There’s been a lot of press on the BP issue, and lawyers, and people are pulling out a lot of stuff. So I suspect the material we have on BP may not be that original. We’ll have to see whether our stuff is especially unique...

Continuing then: The tech industry?

We have some material on spying by a major government on the tech industry. Industrial espionage...

Do you have more on finance?

We have a lot of finance related things. Of the commercial sectors we’ve covered, finance is the most significant...

How do businesses need to adjust to a world where WikiLeaks exists?

WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business, and all CEOs should be encouraged by this. I think about the case in China where milk powder companies started cutting the protein in milk powder with plastics. That happened at a number of separate manufacturers.

Let’s say you want to run a good company. It’s nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they’re not screwing other people over.

Then one company starts cutting their milk powder with melamine, and becomes more profitable. You can follow suit, or slowly go bankrupt and the one that’s cutting its milk powder will take you over. That’s the worst of all possible outcomes.

The other possibility is that the first one to cut its milk powder is exposed. Then you don’t have to cut your milk powder. There’s a threat of regulation that produces self-regulation.

It just means that it’s easier for honest CEOs to run an honest business, if the dishonest businesses are more effected negatively by leaks than honest businesses. That’s the whole idea. In the struggle between open and honest companies and dishonest and closed companies, we’re creating a tremendous reputational tax on the unethical companies.

No one wants to have their own things leaked. It pains us when we have internal leaks. But across any given industry, it is both good for the whole industry to have those leaks and it’s especially good for the good players.
The full interview is here, via Reddit.

A TED talk interview of Julian Assange

The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who's reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.
(This interview is different from the one at Forbes, posted higher up).  He relates an interesting story at the 12:30 mark about how WikiLeaks material is sometimes verified.

"I praise you 24/7!!!!!! And this is how you do me!!!!!"

Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Stevie Johnson dropped five passes in the team's loss to the Steelers including a potential game-winner (see above), then after the game Tweeted this message:
Found at 22 words, where there are a variety of relevant comments...

Aurignacian art

"A woman views what is claimed to be the oldest known art work at the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany. The ivory carving of a mammoth, 35,000 years old, was found in southern Germany."
Discoveries in this area were reported in Der Spiegel in 2007:
Archaeologists at the University of Tübingen have recovered the first entirely intact woolly mammoth figurine from the Swabian Jura, a plateau in the state of Baden-Württemberg, thought to have been made by the first modern humans some 35,000 years ago. It is believed to be the oldest ivory carving ever found...

In total, five mammoth-ivory figurines from the Ice Age were newly discovered at the site of the Vogelherd Cave in southwestern Germany... The geological context of the discoveries and radiocarbon dating indicate that the figurines belong to the Aurignacian culture, which refers to an area of southern France and is associated with the arrival of the first modern humans in Europe.
Additional photos at the link, and further discussion at John Hawks' Weblog.

Via Found Here.  Photo: Martin Meissner/AP

Sean Connery talks about politics (1965)

From an interview in Look magazine in 1965:
I’ve never voted since I was born. What’s the point? Things go on just the same, and politics is all a question of money: the more money you have, the more successful you are in politics...

It’s all a question of money, my dear, money! I feel sympathy for the workers of course; I was one of them. But I’ve never deluded myself that they’re Jesus Christs. God! I’ve lived too long among them not to know they’re not Jesus Christs. Ideologies leave me cold. I’ve never liked people who talk, I like people who get on with things and do them well and do them thoroughly, without speeches. I’m a practical man.

Do you see what I mean? I admire something done, accomplished and successfully finished, not something theorized and philosophized about. Nothing appeals to me more than strength, energy, enthusiasm...
Found at Old Hollywood.  Photo by Leo Fuchs (1963).

Reptilian eye ear-studs

Found at Neph's Madhouse, via Sloth Unleashed.

The Seven Sutherland Sisters

The story of "The Amazing Sisters Sutherland" is detailed at Sideshow World.
They were America's first celebrity models. In the 1880s, fashion's era of bustles and puffs, they became one of the sexiest, most popular performing attractions in The Greatest Show on Earth... They came from the poverty of Cambria, New York, a rural farm community, and rode their dynamic singing talent and exotic looks to wealth and international fame, becoming global trendsetters, and even marrying into royalty.

As Gilded Age divas, they sang, played piano, modeled, and offered hair care and beauty advice to millions... They had hair magnetism; hair was their art, their source of power and eventual wealth. In the days when few people trusted physicians, when secret home-made remedies, quackery, and self-doctoring flourished, they helped set the standards by which models and celebrities would endorse and sell namesake beauty products...
Via Teatime with a Faun, via Titam et le Sirop d'Erable.

Error-filled school report elicits apology

A head teacher has been forced to apologise after a school report was sent to a parent containing 14 spelling and grammatical errors. The form tutor sent the ''shocking'' email to the parents of a pupil in her class at Gleed Girls' Technology College, in Spalding, Lincs.

Some of the mistakes seem to be typing errors made in haste, such as "requriements" and "everning". But others, such as "boardering" and "occaisions" indicate a need for the teacher to be sent back to primary school.
That was interesting, but I also found these comments of interest:
Marie Clair, spokeswoman for the Plain English Campaign, said: ''I think this teacher should go back to school themselves – it is appalling.

''Teachers who do this should wear their own dunces hats when they make so many mistakes.
"This teacher... themselves," "dunces hats" without an apostrophe. The latter may be a mistake by The Telegraph, but the former is supposed to be direct quote of the spokeswoman for Plain English.


addendum:  One comment indicates that I may be wrong in my critique of the use of "themselves," which is gender-neutral and thus doesn't betray the sex of the subject.  But it seems to me that then it would have to be "themself", and in any case the sentence would be fine without any reflexive term.

29 November 2010

Hansel and Gretel

I recently ran across this old cartoon commenting on childhood obesity, and wondered whether the original story of Hansel and Gretel involved "fattening up" the children.  So I dug out my ancient copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales (the 1945 Illustrated Junior Library copy that was one of my first books) and found that starving children were part and parcel of the original tale.

In the first place, the children were abandoned in the woods by their parents because there wasn't enough food to feed the family:
... And at one time when there was famine in the land, he could no longer procure daily bread... "I'll tell you what, husband... tomorrow morning we will take the children out quite early into the thickest part of the  forest.  We will light a fire and give each of them a piece of bread.  Then we will go to our work and leave them alone.  They won't be able to find their way back, and so we shall be rid of them."
After wandering the woods, the children find the house made of bread and roofed with cake, with windows of transparent sugar.  They start to eat the house, which is inhabited by the wicked witch...
Whenever she could get a child into her clutches she cooked it and ate it, and considered it a grand feast... 
But she has to fatten up Hansel:
"Fetch some water and cook something nice for your brother.  He is in the stable and has to be fattened.  When he is nice and fat, I will eat him."
Here is Arthur Rackham's illustration of the encounter, via the OBI Scrapbook Blog:
A brief search through Google Images doesn't reveal any images depicting the children as being malnourished.

An Atlantic-to-Pacific waterway across Nicaragua

An explorer claims to have found evidence of another, more ancient, water route between the oceans — one that existed hundreds of years before the Panama Canal was conceived.

Several hundred miles to the north-west, in Nicaragua, the route — which involves rivers, a lake and flood plains — was discovered by Colonel John Blashford-Snell, who has just returned from an expedition there...

He is now planning another expedition to discover whether it is really possible to take a boat from one coast to the other without touching land... If so, it will prove something remarkable: that the ancient maps which show a passage between the two oceans — and which have long been dismissed as fanciful — had a greater claim to accuracy than was realised...

No records of such a canal exist, although there were plans for a Nicaragua canal before the argument for Panama won the day.

Whether Colonel Blashford-Snell found evidence of ancient canals is arguable — he does not push the point himself — but the case for a natural water passage is strong, according to the explorer...

Parts of the passage are well known, if not obviously navigable. Lake Nicaragua, which is 100ft (32m) above sea level, occupies the central part of the isthmus, and from there the San Juan River runs east to the Caribbean...

Colonel Blashford-Snell, who spent two weeks in Nicaragua last month with a team of four, said he found places where the head waters of different river systems — one flowing east into the lake, another flowing west into the Pacific — were only a few hundred yards apart. The seemingly unanswerable question, however, was how to get from one river to the other.

Then, by chance, he met a local fisherman who helped him to unlock the puzzle. Mariano Hernandez told them he had made the journey from the centre of the isthmus between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific down to the lake to go fishing — a journey made possible during the rainy season when the land turns into a lake up to 2m deep.
The rest of the story is at The Times.

Disney's 50 animated movies

Via The Daily Dish.

Treasures from Afghanistan

The Guardian has a photoset of objects found at Tillya Tepe, Afghanistan.  Pictured above:
"Pair of pendants depicting the Dragon Master in gold, turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelian, and pearl. These elaborate hair ornaments depict a man wearing the tunic and flowing pants typical of nomadic dress. He holds two dragon-like creatures by their forelegs, a mythic scene known from ancient Persian and Siberian art that suggests power and invincibility" and

"Gold, turquoise, and carnelian boot buckles depicting a chariot drawn by dragons (Tillya Tepe, Tomb IV), 1st century BC-1st century AD."
About ten more items at the link.

The U.S. has now been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets

The last Red Army troops left Feb. 15, 1989, driven out after nine years and 50 days by the U.S.-backed Afghan fighters...

Western officials generally shun comparisons between the Soviet conflict and this one. The aims, the manner of waging the conflicts, the numbers of dead, the treatment of Afghan civilians — all these, they argue, are vastly different.

The Soviet invasion sprang from Cold War geopolitical machinations, with Moscow's troops keeping an unpopular Communist regime in power. The U.S.-led war, targeting Al Qaeda and the Taliban, began with an air assault Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11 attacks.

For the Soviets, the scope of bloodletting in their Afghan war was enormous, with 13,833 dead troops and tens of thousands maimed. U.S. military fatalities to date total about one-tenth that: 1,403 as of Friday, according to the website icasualties.org...

Despite the contrasts, the two wars have vivid narrative elements in common: An invading force finds that its vast military superiority is no guarantee of victory against a guerrilla insurgency; resentment against foreigners sometimes boils over; the terrain is timelessly formidable; local ways can seem impenetrably mysterious...
The rest of the story is at the Los Angeles Times.

See my previous post on Michael Palin's comments re Afghanistan,  and the poem cited by sobriquet in the Comments section.

This dog dish just sold for $27,450

Found at the Los Angeles Times' Culture Monster column.  Five other dog bowls which sold for over $1,000 each are also depicted.

Note this was "created as part of the Bowl Project, which benefits PAWS/LA, a nonprofit that helps low-income elderly and the chronically ill keep and care for their pets. "

Enjoy a walkthrough of Lascaux

The Lascaux cave website has a virtual walkthrough that is visually quite stunning.  The screencap above (click to magnify) shows a map on the lower right with a dot indicating your location; you can jump to specific sites using the navigation bar center bottom, and click on the screen for further details of selected images.

I believe the site is formed on a CGI rather than photographic basis, and you don't have any panning controls, but it's very impressive.  I had never realized how very extensive the cave is.

The website is here.  Via within the crainium.

"Ordinary people" will draft Iceland's new constitution

The sparsely-populated volcanic island is holding an unusual election Saturday to select ordinary citizens to cobble together a new charter, an exercise in direct democracy born out of the outrage and soul-searching that followed the nation's economic meltdown...

Iceland has never written its own constitution. After gaining independence from Denmark in 1944, it took the Danish constitution, amended a few clauses to state that it was now an independent republic, and substituted the word 'president' for 'king.' A comprehensive review of the constitution has been on the agenda ever since...

"It is very important for ordinary citizens, who have no direct interest in maintaining the status quo, to take part in a constitutional review," said Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. "We are hoping this new constitution will be a new social covenant leading to reconstruction and reconciliation, and for that to happen, the entire nation needs to be involved."

Icelanders debated their values and turned to questioning the foundations of their society, including those that had facilitated the boom. Anger grew as more instances of misdeeds and incompetence in the private and public sector were exposed. Icelanders woke up to the harsh fact that their country, which had consistently been at or near the top of the Transparency International anti-corruption index, was, in fact, steeped in corruption...

Anyone is eligible to stand for election, with the exceptions of the president, lawmakers and the committee appointed to organize the assembly.

The assembly will draft a proposed new constitution next year. They will use material from another extraordinary project earlier this year in which 1,000 randomly chosen Icelanders -- aged 18-89 -- offered their views on what should be in the constitution.
The rest of the story is at Boston.com

Red and blue voting patterns, 1920 - 2008

It's hard for me to know exactly what to make of this visualization of the data, because the parties and their platforms change so much over the years.  Some of the implications are discussed at Sociological Images.

p.s. - for those wondering about the word in the header of the video, isarithms are explained here.

Food court Hallelulah Chorus

A performance in a Welland, Ontario shopping mall.

Found at Sound and Fury.

28 November 2010

"Yakut woman wearing festive costume"

From a gallery of about three dozen photos of the people of Siberia at the turn of the last century, from the Collections from The Irkutsk State University, via English Russia.

Wikileaks... "like putting the government through a body scanner"

Credit for the expression here, via Reddit, where government's ages-old argument, "if you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear" is discussed.

Doctors more reluctant to treat Medicare-funded patients

Doctors across the country [are] complaining that they've been forced to shift away from Medicare toward higher-paying, privately insured or self-paying patients in response to years of penny-pinching by Congress.

And that's not even taking into account a long-postponed rate-setting method that is on track to slash Medicare's payment rates to doctors by 23 percent Dec. 1... physicians have already been running print ads, passing out fliers to patients and flooding Capitol Hill with phone calls to convince Congress to suspend the 25 percent rate cut that the SGR method will require next year...

...government analysts and independent experts suggest that although doctors could not absorb a 25 percent fee cut, the claim that they have been inadequately compensated by Medicare until now is wildly exaggerated...

...statistics also suggest many doctors have more than made up for the erosion in the value of their Medicare fees by dramatically increasing the volume of services they provide - performing not just a greater number of tests and procedures, but also more complex versions that allow them to charge Medicare more money.

From 2000 to 2008, the volume of services per Medicare patient rose 42 percent. Some of this was because of the increasing availability of sophisticated treatments that undoubtedly save lives. Some was because of doctors practicing "defensive medicine" - ordering every conceivable test to shield themselves from malpractice lawsuits down the line...

"The argument that doctors literally can't afford to feed their kids [if they take Medicare's rates] is absurd," said Berenson. "It's just that doctors have gotten used to a certain income and lifestyle."

Regardless of their motivation, if doctors skew their patient base away from Medicare too drastically seniors' access to medical care could be limited.

Is that happening? Again, opinions vary...
Read the rest of the discussion at the Washington Post.

eBay transactions on Black Friday

The data ("all U.S. buyer and seller transactions") are from last year, originally posted by TechCrunch.  It's an interesting distribution; I wish someone could adjust it for population density.  Via Sociological Images.

Weight loss through cigarette smoking

One of eight similar advertisements assembled at Sociological Images.

Those interested in the history of cigarette advertising should visit Stanford University's Not a Cough in a Carload, where many hundreds of ads have been organized by theme, by brand, and by slogan.  Lots of visual resources at that link.

Flamingoes clustered in the shape of a...

It's a real, nonmanipulated photo from National Geographic (credit aerial photographer Robert B. Haas).  Via the New Shelton wet/dry.

p.s. - Why do flamingoes stand on one leg?  For thermoregulation.

Milk + food coloring + soap

This is an old video that I thought I had posted before, but apparently not.  Learn this, and impress small children.

Body scanners coming to trains... subways... boats... ??

Brace yourselves, commuters — body scanners may be coming to trains, subways and boats, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“[Terrorists] are going to continue to probe the system and try to find a way through,” Napolitano said in an interview that aired Monday night on “Charlie Rose.” She said as aviation security tightens, “we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime.”
To be fair, she didn't specify that scanners would be the method of security for those modes of transportation.  But it's all security theater, and it's ridiculously impractical, frankly ineffective, and ludicrously expensive.

When will someone in charge have the balls to stand up and say "stop this nonsense?"

The long winter night comes to Tromsø

In Tromsø, Norway - way north of the Polar Circle - the sun has gone down for the last time this year. To mark the beginning of the ‘Mørketid’ as the period without daylight is called, hundreds of local kindergarten kids each brought a homemade candle to the city square where they were all lit…

The sun is expected to return in early January 2011, as usual…
Via Ordinary Finds.

Black Friday line of shoppers

No panic or excitement - just a LONG line, waiting for Old Navy to open.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide detected on Rhea

Saturn's moon Rhea may not only have an atmosphere - it may be similar to earth's atmosphere!
Saturn's icy moon Rhea has an oxygen and carbon dioxide atmosphere that is very similar to Earth's... According to new data from the Cassini probe, the moon's thin atmosphere is kept up by the constant chemical decomposition of ice water on the surface of Rhea. It's likely that Saturn's fierce magnetosphere is continually irradiating this ice water, which is what helps to maintain the atmosphere. Researchers suspect a lot of Rhea's oxygen isn't actually free right now, but is instead trapped inside Rhea's frozen oceans.

While the presence oxygen is relatively easy to understand, the carbon dioxide is actually even more intriguing. The gas is likely created by reactions between organic molecules and oxidants down on the moon's surface. That seems rather shockingly Earth-like, or at least like the Earth of a few billion years ago.
I haven't read anything else about it, but I suspect it's incorrect for the link to state that humans could breathe the air, because even if the gaseous fractions were appropriate, the atmospheric pressure would probably be way too low.  Nevertheless, it's an intriguing discovery.

Photo credit NASA.


Winner of many animation awards, and a nominee for the 2009 Academy Award for short animated film.


Roman sextans coin

I've never seen one before; I think they look cool.
The sextans was an Ancient Roman bronze coin produced during the Roman Republic valued at one-sixth of an as (2 unciae). The most common design for the sextans was the bust of Mercury and two pellets (indicating two unciae) on the obverse and the prow of a galley on the reverse. Earlier types depicted a scallop shell, a caduceus, or other symbols on the obverse.
Looks like the scallop also has two "pellets" next to it.  This coin from the British Museum collection, where it says the reverse (not shown) displays the inside of the scallop shell.   269-266 BC.

Photo via Couleurs and A London Salmagundi.

Warren Buffett challenges (other) billionaires re their tax rates

Warren Buffett is getting some feedback from his billionaire club colleagues to his million-dollar tax challenge, and it's not all that positive.

In an interview with NBC's Tom Brokaw that aired last week, Buffett took his "I'm not paying enough in taxes, and neither are my fellow billionaires" campaign to a new level, highlighting his contention that he pays a lower tax rate than all of his office employees.

He told Brokaw: "I'll bet a million dollars against any member of the Forbes 400 who challenges me that the average (federal tax rate including income and payroll taxes) for the Forbes 400 will be less than the average of their receptionists."
"So far only three close friends, all 400 members, have made the calculation for me. They all came up with results similar to mine but have no interest in being identified."

Green roofs

Via here, but I doubt that's the original source.

Addendum:  acb420 offers an Amusing Planet post several months ago as the source.  Tx.

The contractions are getting closer together...

I recently read a post where the blogger used the word "must've" as a contraction of "must have," and a commenter carped that the term was "jarring."  It may have been disconcerting to the reader, but was not (as far as I know) grammatically incorrect; Grammar Girl offers a brief discussion of "troublesome contractions" -
Most contractions pose no problem, but contractions that involve the word “is” can cause confusion or ambiguity. You’ll encounter a problematic “is” contraction when you’re contracting it with a noun... In short, it’s best to avoid contractions with the verb “is” when you are using it with a noun, including a proper name. “Kim’s here” (Kim-apostrophe-s) isn’t wrong, but it just isn’t as clear as “Kim is here.”

Both “had” and “would” are contracted with an apostrophe plus a “d,” as in “I’d already been there” (for “I had already been there”) and “I’d rather not go” (for “I would rather not go”). Sometimes readers (or listeners) can become momentarily unsure whether you mean “I had” or “I would", for example, and they have to spend extra time working out what you mean...

It’s not a good idea to contract two things inside one contraction, as happens with “I’d’ve,” a contraction of “I would have”. It would be better to say, “I’d have” or perhaps not even use a contraction at all...

Also among that list are contractions such as “could’ve,” “should’ve,” “would’ve,” “might’ve,” and “must’ve,” because they encourage people to believe the proper pronunciations are “could of” and “must of,” which are incorrect. It’s better to spell these out when you are writing them, though O’Conner’s book acknowledges that you'll probably find yourself using these contractions in regular speech.
A quick check of this blog shows only one usage of the terms in that last paragraph (and that in the lyrics of Pink Floyd's "Us and Them"), but personally, I wouldn't worry about using them because readers of this blog would not be misled by the contractions. 

Further details and discussion at Grammar Girl.

The immense power of sunlight

What's important about the video is not the fact that focused sunlight can melt rock, but that for the demonstration shown, the sunlight used was that which fell onto an area only 2 square meters in area.

As pointed out at Reddit, you can do this at home with a giant Fresnel lens, and you can harvest such lenses from discarded rear-projection televisions.

National Geographic photography contest submissions

Selections from a gallery of 47 assembled at Boston.com's The Big Picture.  Click for bigger, or visit the link.

Credits to Stephen Hocking for the ?mantid, to Jay Fine for the lightning strike, and to Nam In Geun for the oasis.

Respecting the turkey on Thanksgiving weekend

For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country …

... the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America … He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.
---Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his daughter.

Via Historical Indulgences.

Blogging delayed by prolate spheroids

Defined and illustrated at Wikipedia, clarified at Physics Buzz.

24 November 2010

Lake Baikal

From a gallery of 24 photos at English Russia.

Ophidiophobes should not click on this video

I was called in to remove an unknown number of snakes waiting out the winter inside of a garage of a Scottsdale, AZ home. In this video, I had discovered where they were, and went back to get my gear for the capture.

The lights are off because there is no power in the home.

These snakes have not been harmed in any way, and will be relocated to the wild as soon as possible.
 I bet you jumped at the 0:40 mark.  Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

A ketogenic diet may suppress epilepsy in children

A typical lunch is full-fat Greek yogurt mixed with coconut oil. Dinner is hot dogs, bacon, macadamia nuts and cheese. We figure that in an average week, Sam consumes a quart and a third of heavy cream, nearly a stick and a half of butter, 13 teaspoons of coconut oil, 20 slices of bacon and 9 eggs. Sam’s diet is just shy of 90 percent fat. That is twice the fat content of a McDonald’s Happy Meal and about 25 percent more than the most fat-laden phase of the Atkins diet...

Sam has epilepsy, and the food he eats is controlling most of his seizures (he used to have as many as 130 a day). The diet, which drastically reduces the amount of carbohydrates he takes in, tricks his body into a starvation state in which it burns fat, and not carbs, for fuel. Remarkably, and for reasons that are still unclear, this process — called ketosis — has an antiepileptic effect. He has been eating this way for almost two years.

...when it comes to keto’s impact on pediatric seizures, there is wide acceptance. There are about two dozen backward-looking analyses of patient data suggesting keto works, and, more significant, two randomized, controlled studies published in 2008. One of the trials, by researchers at University College London, found that 38 percent of patients on the diet had their seizure frequency reduced more than 50 percent and that 7 percent had their seizure frequency reduced more than 90 percent.

Will the diet doom Sam to a lifetime of heart disease and high cholesterol? Thiele and Pfeifer don’t think so. There is research, published this year, suggesting that there are few lingering effects in the years after stopping the diet. Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in Baltimore, where the diet was pioneered in the 1920s, surveyed 101 former patients, most of whom had been off the diet for more than six years, and found that they had normal cholesterol and cardiovascular levels, no preference for fatty foods and, for those off the diet the longest, normal growth rates.
Much, much more at the New York Times link. It's a fascinating story.

Interesting face

This is identified as a carte-de-visite from the 1860s.

Her facial appearance is made a bit more bizarre by the contrast created by the ruffed cap.  I wonder what caused the extreme coarsening of her features.  Myxedema?  Acromegaly?  A dermatological disorder?  Any clinicians care to offer thoughts?  At the source it's assumed to be normal old age.

Source: kmodil's Flickr photostream, via Historical Indulgences.

"Snail trails" on rocks

...photos from Duncan Bay, on Vancouver Island. Snail trails. Under the pebbles on the beach, the ground was a fine, grey clay, that mixed with snail slime made a whitish paint. Most of the stones were embellished.
Credit to Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds), one of my favorite nature blogs.

Why stock prices and commodities sometimes track one another

In the past few years, many investors have concluded that commodities like oil, corn and gold offer independent returns that can diversify away the risks of stocks. But the correlations between stocks and commodities—the extent to which their prices move together—are in many cases the highest they have been in nearly 30 years...

Some of the linkages between stocks and commodities are looking bizarre. This Thursday, the monthly correlation between sugar futures and the S&P 500 hit 67%, more than 10 times its level just six days earlier, says Howard Simons, strategist at Bianco Research. That is the third time this year that the linkage between sugar and stock prices surged above 60%—much higher than their long-term average of under 20%...

Sugar, says Mr. Simons, is now both an "energy commodity" and a "growth story," since much of the Brazilian crop is used to produce ethanol. That gasoline additive is linked to crude-oil prices, which in turn are sensitive to monetary policy and global economic growth—the same factors driving stock prices...

But there is another, less visible force at work, Mr. Simons says. Algorithmic trading programs, or "algos," automatically buy and sell a wide variety of assets based on mathematical models. An algo doesn't know or care why two assets are moving together; it merely is programmed to recognize that they are doing so. As soon as a computer places bets that such a linkage in prices will persist, other traders—computers and humans alike—tend to take note and follow suit...

"We've gotten to the Frankenstein point where algos are self-programming, and they evolve to chase these relationships," Mr. Simons says. "That's created a sheer wall of money that is forcing other people's behavior into the same pattern."

...And you may have been riding the commodity boom without even realizing it. "It's a common assumption that the average individual investor has zero allocation to commodities," says Matthew Carvalho, director of investment research at Loring Ward, a financial-advisory firm in San Jose, Calif. "But most investors have some indirect exposure to commodities through the stock market."
Further details at The Wall Street Journal.  Some day I ought to write a long post about algorithmic trading programs, the thought of which frankly scares the bejeesus out of me.

Award-winning wildlife photograph

This photograph of Leeds City Center by Paul Hobson won an award in the Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotografen (GDT) [Society of German Nature Photographers] photography competition for 2010, in the category "Man and Nature."

Don't see the wildlife?  Keep looking... (or see the caption at the Guardian link).

Via a gallery at The Guardian.

Interesting hat

Click for bigger.  I'm not mocking the hat; rather, I'm wondering if anyone can offer information about the era and the ethnicities or cultural affinities involved in her wardrobe.  Other interesting hats here, here, here, and here.

Found at Couleurs.

Addendum:  A tip of MY hat to shibori78, who discovered a similar hat in a photo of a young woman from lower Saxony:
He found this at fleurdecoucou's Flickr photostream, where it is accompanied by this text:
"Phot. Fr. Wehde, Bückeburg - Stadthagen, Germany, ca1905-10.  Young woman wearing the traditional Westerten (Bückeburg) costume (Bückeburg is a small town in Lower Saxony, Germany, on the border with North Rhine Westphalia.)"

Dali copied some of his material from a postcard

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) painted Forgotten Horizon (1936, Tate T01078) in 1936. One of a series of small oil paintings on wood panel, it depicts the beach at Rosas on the east coast of Spain with a group of alluringly posed dancers, meant to stimulate the imagination and subconscious. Recently, the work was in the Paintings Conservation studio at Tate for a technical examination...

The source for the dancers is reported to be a postcard, now lost. From the information gained by examining the painting with infra red light, conservators were able to determine that Dalí transferred the image on the card to the panel, outlining the figures, the internal contours and facial features.

Tate's digital infrared camera provides a series of small images which are pieced together into a mosaic...  Infrared light penetrates the upper layers of paint, and is either absorbed by the black media used for the underdrawing - such as pencil, ink or dilute black paint - or reflected by the white priming layer. This contrasting absorption or reflection is translated into a visible black and white image which reveals Dalí's preparatory outlines.
Further information is available at the Tate's Painting Conservation site.

23 November 2010

A montage of 250 movie introductions

Created by David Balboa for Exophrine, where you can see a complete list of the 250 characters/movies assembled in this video.  Outstanding.

Via The Litter Box and Neatorama.

Bake Sale for Bombers

Artist unknown, via J-Walk.


Click for bigger.  Two selections from a set of 34 images at Boston.com's The Big Picture.

Photo credits: MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty Images (top) and AP Photo/Hassan Ammar (lower).

"The Man Who Could Not Summarize" (Dilbert)

The earliest-known Monopoly game set

Now being offered as Lot 232 in a sale by Sotheby's of the toy collection of Malcomb Forbes.  This is a handmade set from 1933...
This is the earliest Darrow set known to survive, the only one of circular shape, and the earliest to include rules. Complete game-set, handmade by Charles B. Darrow in Philadelphia about 1933, containing more than 200 pieces, including the manuscript playing-surface, pen-and-ink and gouache on a circular piece of off-white oilcloth (33 1/2 in. diameter); the carbon typescript rules-sheet; and the playing-cards and -pieces (typescript deeds, typescript draw-cards, hotels and houses, bank-notes, and tokens). Partially displayed in a lucite case.
Yours for an (estimated) $60-80,000.

Via Dinosaurs and Robots.

Recognize this young lady?

Photo taken in 1952, when she was 18 and just entering a career of movie stardom and social activism.

Identity revealed at John McNab's Flickr photostream.

A real-life "burning bush"

Dictamnus albus, "known variously as Burning-bush, False Dittany, White Dittany, Gas-plant and Fraxinella" is a perennial herb, that - as the video demonstrates - produces a flammable substance.

Some sources I've read describe the substance as a sticky tar or an oil; others say it is a methane-like gas.  I don't have time to sort that out - just wanted to share the video, because it's quite impressive.  Properly speaking, it's not the bush that's burning - just the gas excreted by the bush - so I'd rather call it the "gas plant."

And that way there wouldn't be any confusion with Euonymus - another shrub colloquially referred to as a "burning bush" because of its brilliant autumnal foliage.

Video via Now I Know and The Centered Librarian.

"Beyond the pale" explained

Pale has nothing to do with the adjective for something light in colour except that both come from Latin roots. The one referring to colour originates in the Latin verb pallere, to be pale, whilst our one is from palus, a stake (also the name of the wooden post that Roman soldiers used to represent an opponent during fighting practice). Pale is an old name for a pointed piece of wood driven into the ground and — by an obvious extension — to a barrier made of such stakes, a palisade or fence. Pole is from the same source, as are impale, paling and palisade. This meaning has been around in English since the fourteenth century and by the end of that century pale had taken on various figurative senses — a defence, a safeguard, a barrier, an enclosure, or a limit beyond which it was not permissible to go...

In particular, the term was used to describe various defended enclosures of territory inside other countries. For example, the English pale in France in the fourteenth century was the territory of Calais, the last English possession in that country. The best-known example is the Russian Pale, between 1791 and the Revolution of 1917, which were specified provinces and districts within which Russian Jews were required to live...

The earliest figurative sense that’s linked to the idiom was of a sphere of activity or interest, a branch of study or a body of knowledge, which comes from the same idea of an enclosed or contained area; we use field in much the same way... Our sense seems part to have grown out of this, since people who exist outside such a conceptual pale are not our kind and do not share our values, beliefs or customs.
From World Wide Words.

Webbed sports glove

Manufactured by DarkFin for swimmers (scuba, surfing, etc) and for skydiving.  Reminiscent of (?inspired by) the hands of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  I would have loved to have had something like this when I was a kid.

Via Everlasting Blort.

St. Eulalia (1885)

Intrigued by the image on this painting by John William Waterhouse, RA (1849-1917), I had to look up the backstory. 
Eulalia was a devout Christian virgin, aged 12–14, whose mother sequestered her in the countryside in AD 304 because all citizens were required to avow faith in the Roman gods. Eulalia ran away to the law court of the governor Dacian at Emerita, professed herself a Christian, insulted the pagan gods and emperor Maximian, and challenged the authorities to martyr her...

She was then stripped by the soldiers, tortured with hooks and torches, and burnt at the stake, suffocating from smoke inhalation. She taunted her torturers all the while,[4] and as she expired a dove flew out of her mouth. This frightened away the soldiers and allowed a miraculous snow to cover her nakedness, its whiteness indicating her sainthood.
Image via La Muse Verte.

22 November 2010

Marilyn Monroe's books - updated

When I saw this photo, I zoomed in to see what books were on the shelf.  I can see War and Peace, and Dostoyevsky's The Idiot.  I can't make out other titles, but the imprint of the "torchbearer" on the spines of several of them indicate I think the Modern Library series, which are quality books.

My first thought was that these would be Arthur Miller's books, but I had heard stories of her intellectual curiosity, and a quick check revealed that she didn't marry Arthur Miller until 1956 (this photo from a shoot conducted in 1951).  Another search led me to "Marilyn Monroe and her literary loves" in The Independent:
...Marilyn Monroe was no stereotypical intellectual lightweight, according to a collection of her own private writings that will paint an alternative picture of the cinematic icon when it is published this autumn.

The film star reveals her passion for literary giants including James Joyce, Walt Whitman and Samuel Beckett in previously unseen diary entries, musings and poems, challenging the popular myth that blondes are supposed to be dumb...

Monroe, whose death at the age of 36 remains a mystery, was an avid reader and something of a culture vulture while she lived in New York, frequently visiting museums and attending plays. Not that she got any credit for her intellect...

She had a vast library, which included works by George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemingway, D H Lawrence, F Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck, as well as Joyce, which she took with her whenever she moved house... While in Hollywood, she briefly took evening courses in art appreciation and literature at UCLA before withdrawing after her presence proved too distracting for the other students.
Interesting. More at the link.

Addendum:  Items on the bookshelf identified by readers of this blog - Miller's Death of a Salesman,  Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, Steinbeck's The Red Pony, The Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Zola's Nana. (Thanks, Steve and Chatterly)

Second addendum:  GalleyCat, a website devoted to the book publishing industry, had an article in October discussing this same new book about Marilyn Monroe's literary interests.   From the text (and photos?) they compiled this list of books that were on her bookshelf:  Conrad's The Secret Agent, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Beckett's The Unnamable, Paris Blues by Harold Flender, Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Dreiser's Sister Carrie, Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat and Once There Was a War, Kerouac's On the Road, The Fall by Albert Camus, and Ellison's Invisible Man.

The new book is entitled Fragments (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010).  I'm now fifth in line for a copy from our library, so I should be able to post a review early in this coming year.

Third addendum Dec 10:   I've just finished the book, and found it to be, shall we say, "underwhelming."  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was a presumably chronological accumulation of jottings and notes Marilyn had written, including recipes, a few letters, and her attempts at poetry.  There was no discussion of her literary interests, although the book was illustrated with many photos of her reading (and I suspect it's true that no other actress/model of her time would have been photographed so often with books.)  I've not added this to the recommended books category.

Update 2013:  The original photo link underwent linkrot.  I've inserted a new photo from this tumblr (don't know if it's the same as the original, but it's from the same photo session).

21 November 2010

Get your prostate checked !!

Today I finish my eighth year of survival after resection of locally invasive prostatic carcinoma.  I credit that survival to 1) awareness and 2) early detection.  If you are a male in your 50s (or younger, if you have a family history), ask your doctor to draw a PSA blood test.

Alternatively, if you take an airplane trip in the United States, the TSA will probably do the exam for you.

The photo does not depict what it feels like to have a digital prostate exam.   It DOES, however, reasonably portray what it's like to get a prostate biopsy.  Good luck.

Photo credit Reuters.

"The Age of Wonder"

“To the natural philosopher there is no natural object unimportant or trifling… a soap bubble.. an apple… a pebble… He walks in the midst of wonders. (John Herschel, 1830)

This week I finished reading The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes (Pantheon Books, New York, 2008).  I borrowed it from the library based on a recommendation in The Atlantic, or Harpers, and initially thought I didn't have time to read it all, so I just read the chapters about Sir Joseph Banks because I have long been fascinated by the wonderful gardens at Kew, which I spent many weekends exploring during a summer sabbatical.

After reading about Banks, I jumped ahead to read about Humphrey Davy and his invention of the miners' lamp, then back toward the beginning to learn about the early hot air balloonists.  By then I decided 'what the heck' and finished the other chapters about the Herschels' discoveries in astronomy and Mungo Park's exploration of Africa, and stuff about Mary Shelley and Byron and Keats and Coleridge and Erasmus Darwin and Michael Faraday and Charles Babbage.  Here are some excerpts:
Joseph Montgolfier later said he had tried Lavoisier’s ‘gaz’ unsuccessfully, but discovered the principle of hot air by watching his wife’s chemise inflating when she hung it over the hearth to dry. (p. 128)

Already in a paper of 1802 Herschel considered the idea that “deep space” must also imply “deep time.” He wrote in his Preface: “A telescope with a power of penetrating into space like my 40 foot one, has also, as it may be called, a power of penetrating into time past…[from a remote nebula] the rays of light which convey its image to the eye, must have been more than 19 hundred and 10 thousand – that is – almost two million years on their way.” The universe was therefore almost unimaginably older than people had previously thought. This idea of deep time was one which required a great deal of explanation to the layman. (p. 203)

On 24 May 1812 the great Felling colliery mining disaster had shaken the population of Sunderland. Every miner in the coalpit, all ninety-two of them, was killed under horrific circumstances: some mutilated, some “scorched dry like mummies,” and some blown headless out of the mineshaft “like bird-shot.” (p. 351)

In Florence, while the guest of the Grand Duke, Davy performed an impressive carbon-based experiment which proved that the most apparently precious of objects – the diamond – could also be the product of nature’s simplest processes. With the Duke’s permission, he commandeered the huge solar magnifying lens at the Florentine Cabinet of Natural History, and subjected an uncut diamond to intense and continuous heat. The diamond eventually burst into flame, leaving a fine crust of black carbon… (p. 355)

For many Romantic scientists, with a robust intellectual belief in the “argument by Design,” there was no immediate contradiction between religion and science: rather the opposite. Science was a gift of God or Providence to mankind, and its purpose was to reveal the wonders of His design. This indeed was the essence of “natural” religion, as promoted for example by William Paley in his Natural Theology (1802), with its famous analogy with the divine watchmaker. (p. 450)
I even discovered that "replaced" is a contranym (or contronym, or anti-antonym, or whatever you want to call it), which can mean two different and opposite things depending on the context. In a discussion of Sir Joseph Banks was this sentence:
His election was, in the event, a triumph. Confirmed by acclaim, he was “unanimously replaced in the Chair.” (p. 395)
I would hope that these excerpts will let you decide whether the book would interest you.  I've incorporated some other material from the book into individual posts below.

Pew Research quiz of knowledge of current events

Go here and click the link to take the quiz.  My results shown above; those getting all twelve right are welcome to note their accomplishment in the Comments section.
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