06 February 2016


Secret doors and hiding places in homes.

Introducing the New York Public Library's erotica collection.  "For decades, they were kept in locked cages, accessible only with special permission and viewed in a small, secured area in the main research library. More recently, hundreds of works that make up the triple-star collection have been liberated from the restricted controls. An adult with a library card can simply fill out a request and peruse the material on the premises."

The use of microwaved tampons and WD-40 in food photography.

A game of Monopoly completed in 21 seconds (video).  "The shortest possible game of Monopoly requires only four turns, nine rolls of the dice, and twenty-one seconds."

The pronunciation of poinsettia is explained at Language Log.  "The journalist also wondered whether the "poinsetta" pronunciation is a mistake, and whether people who use it should be corrected. My response was that there are lots of similar cases of variants with a phoneme or two missing — february, surprise, etc. — and the fact that such variants are listed in dictionaries is a good reason not to correct people who prefer them. And there are other cases where pronouncing the lost phonemes is actually a mistake — wednesday (at least in the U.S.), worcester, etc."

A discussion thread about suspicious deaths occurring in the Scientology-owned Fort Harrison Hotel and the failure of police to investigate emergency calls from the hotel.

A humorous advertisement for butt plugs (SFW).

There seems to be no end to odd cake wrecks. " The birthday girl’s name is Starr. That’s Starr, with two “r”s. Got it?"

How to run out of a steep hole.

A video about the Helicobacter in Otzi's stomach.

"Heavy fighting breaks out in a refugee camp" (Serbian police vs. middle-eastern children).  A 30- second video you will enjoy.

"My late granddad had a quaint way of bidding people goodbye. He would say “Goodbye, and thank your mother for the rabbits”. Do you think that was just him being himself, or was it an expression in general use? He lived a bit further north than I do at the moment, in north-west Durham."  Explanation at World Wide Words.

Here's what's wrong with modern country music.

A wooden prosthesis for a medieval leg has been found in an Austrian archaeological site.

A Mary Sue for female characters and Gary Stu or Marty Stu for male characters is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character, a young or low-rank person who saves the day through unrealistic abilities. Often this character is recognized as an author insert and/or wish-fulfillment

"Probably any aphid you have ever met was female. In some aphid species, males do not exist or at least have never been observed. In other species, males only occur during one of the many generations that occur during the season, late in the year."

A panoramic photo taken inside the Hatton Gardon heist bank vault.  Impressive.

Photos and thumbnail bioraphies of the ten tallest people currently alive.  If you were 8 feet tall, you'd only come in third.

The Oxford Words blog explains the origin of the phrase "currying favor" in a brief video.  "The original form of this phrase was actually ‘to curry Favel’, which probably sounds rather puzzling. Favel was the name of a chestnut horse in a 14th-century French tale who was renowned for his cunning and duplicity."

NPR reports that "The Onion" has been sold to Univision. (honest)

A gallery of photos of spiders that catch and eat bats.

The largest known prime number has been discovered.  The number is 274,207,281-1.  It has 22,338,618 digits.  Perhaps some reader can leave a comment on this post as to why this is important or relevant to real life.

A "life pro tip" - "when paying a friend cash, ask them to double check it so they don't feel awkward counting it in front of you."

I have some terrible news...

With only 18 lines of dialogue and equally as few minutes of screen time, [Aurora/Sleeping Beauty] speaks less than any other speaking main character in a full-length Disney animated feature film.

Trail running in the Scottish Highlands.  A five-minute video best enjoyed by clicking the full-screen icon.

There is a long-standing debate and some simmering animosity in Minnesota between muskie fishermen and walleye fishermen.  This article explains why and tries to calm the waters with some observations on biology and ecology.

Statistically speaking, six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy.  :.)

A gallery of 28 photos from North Korea, with some trenchant captions (note the computers with no electricity).

In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation's worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

Video of an immense "sneaker wave" coming ashore in Oregon.  Very impressive.  Not the same as a tsunami, btw.

The photos for today's linkdump come from Growing Ice - an Overview, which is the best webpage I've found so far on unusual ice formations (top photo credit bobbi fabellano from the Olympic Peninsula).  I've been fascinated by ice flowers ever since I saw my first one growing in my yard when I lived in Kentucky.  More photos, and lucid explanations at the link.

04 February 2016


I never heard this word until encountering it at Futility Closet.  It wasn't even in my Random House - had to dig out the OED and get the magnifying glass:
Apricatev. rare.  [fr. Latin apricat].  To bask in the sun (or to expose to sunlight).  
Citations from 1691 to 1858 - the latter offering this curious turn of phrase:
"Not sunning, but mooning himself - apricating himself in the occasional moonbeams."
Reposted so my wife can once again enjoy seeing our old cat Boo-Boo enjoying the sun at our apartment in St. Louis fifteen years ago.

Jurassic lacewing vs. modern butterfly

"A study out today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: B that features IU paleobotanist David Dilcher as a co-author identifies a Jurassic-age insect whose behavior and appearance closely mimic a butterfly — but whose emergence on Earth predates the butterfly by about 40 million years.

Dilcher — who made international headlines last year for his role in discovering the mythical “first flower” — said these proverbial “first butterflies” survived in a similar manner as their modern sister insects by visiting plants with “flower-like” reproductive organs producing nectar and pollen."
"The butterfly-like insects, which went on to evolve into a different form of insect from the modern butterfly, is an extinct “lacewing” of the genus kalligrammatid called Oregramma illecebrosa. Another genus of this insect — of the order Neuroptera — survives into our modern era, and are commonly known as fishflies, owlflies or snakeflies...

... another evolutionary innovation found in the ancient lacewing fossils’ wings remained remarkably unchanged over the course of millennia: so-called “eye spots.”

This unique pattern on the wings, arising over 200 million years ago, is nearly identical to markings on the modern owl butterfly. To this day, owl butterflies use these circular marks as a defense mechanism against predators, which mistake the spots as the eyes of a larger, more threatening animal."
Text and images from Indiana University, via Vice's Motherboard.

I know what you meant to say, but...

Via Bad Newspaper.

Baby monitors can be hacked

Predictably enough, accounts are now surfacing of voyeurs and griefers who are using these capabilities to spy on, and taunt babies.

Jay and Sarah, parents in San Francisco, couldn't figure out what their three-year-old meant when he said he was scared to sleep at night because the "phone" kept talking to him, but then one night Sarah walked by and heard a stranger's voice coming out of the monitor, saying, "Wake up little boy, daddy's looking for you."

When Sarah walked in the room, the camera's night-vision lens turned to examine her and the voice added, "look someone's coming into view." 
Further details and links at BoingBoing.

Word for the day:
A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game, using aspects of the game in unintended ways. A griefer derives pleasure primarily or exclusively from the act of annoying other users, and as such is a particular nuisance in online gaming communities, since griefers often cannot be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals.

"Never have I seen a more beautifully kept toilet..."

A selection of photos of the toilet at John Wesley’s Chapel.
"There is a sepulchral light that glimmers as you descend beneath the chapel to enter the gleaming sanctum where, on the right hand side of the aisle, eight cedar cubicles present themselves, facing eight urinals to the left, with eight marble washbasins behind a screen at the far end. A harmonious arrangement that reminds us of the Christian symbolism of the number eight as the number of redemption – represented by baptism – which is why baptismal fonts are octagonal. Appropriately, eight was also the number of humans rescued from the deluge upon Noah’s Ark.

Never have I seen a more beautifully kept toilet than this, every wooden surface has been waxed, the marble and mosaics shine, and each cubicle has a generous supply of rolls of soft white paper. It is both a flawless illustration of the rigours of the Methodist temperament and an image of what a toilet might be like in heaven..."
"Yet before you leave and enter Methodist paradise, a moment of silent remembrance for the genius of Thomas Crapper is appropriate. Contrary to schoolboy myth, he did not give his name to the colloquial term for bowel movements, which, as any etymologist will tell you, is at least of Anglo-Saxon origin..."

Should your attention be entirely absorbed by this matchless parade of eight Crapper’s Valveless Waste Preventers, do not neglect to admire the sparkling procession of urinals opposite by George Jennings (1810-1882) – celebrated as the inventor of the public toilet. 827,280 visitors paid a penny for the novelty of using his Monkey Closets in the retiring rooms at the Great Exhibition of 1851, giving rise to the popular euphemism, “spend a penny,” still in use today in overly polite circles...
More photos and text at Spitalfields Life (a most interesting blog, btw).

If I had shoes like this...

View post on imgur.com

...maybe I could dance like her.


In a recent interview, Kate Winslet has agreed that there was room on the door for Jack.  A WaPo article discusses the issue and the Mythbusters investigation of the buoyancy of the plank.

Words for the day ("lagan" was new for me):
  • Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo.
  • Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and is washed ashore.
  • Lagan (also called ligan) is goods or wreckage that is lying on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes marked by a buoy, which can be reclaimed.

"The ego has landed"

I am trying to minimize politics in this blog, but some political cartoons just beg to be reproduced.

This one is by Nick Anderson in Hearst Papers, via Jobsanger.

"What are the chances?"

One out of 64.  (Although I have read reports that it was 6 flips out of 7 - if so, some reader can calculate those odds for me).

The cartoon suggests that Republicans are upset; Salon's "Coingate" article says Bernie Sanders' supporters are crying foul. 

Time to move on.

Cartoon via Jobsanger.

03 February 2016

"Catching Kayla"

"Tom Rinaldi tells the remarkable story of Kayla Montgomery -- who, despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, has become one of the best young distance runners in the country."
Here's your inspirational video for the week. With a tip of the blogging hat to reader Jeffrey Olson for finding it and notifying me.

02 February 2016

Girl with a pearl headdress

I've been unable to find details about this painting, except that it is entitled "Girl with a Pearl Headdress" and is attributed to the "Central European School" in 1625-1635.

My train of thought on seeing this was to wonder what this girl would think were she to be transported to our modern world and be taken for a visit to our local Target store, where girls of a similar age consider themselves fully dressed while wearing millimeter-thick leggings topped by a Green Bay Packers t-shirt. 

Would she be... shocked?  Or jealous of their freedom?  Or... would our local tweens be jealous of her?

Via A London Salmagundi.

How some birds locate seed caches

Robert Krulwich explains:
Around now, as we begin December, the Clark’s nutcracker has, conservatively, 5,000 (and up to 20,000) treasure maps in its head. They’re accurate, detailed, and instantly retrievable.

It’s been burying seeds since August. It’s hidden so many (one study says almost 100,000 seeds) in the forest, meadows, and tree nooks that it can now fly up, look down, and see little x’s marking those spots—here, here, not there, but here—and do this for maybe a couple of miles around. It will remember these x’s for the next nine months...

When December comes... the trees go bare and it’s time to switch from hide to seek mode. Nobody knows exactly how the birds manage this, but the best guess is that when a nutcracker digs its hole, it will notice two or three permanent objects at the site: an irregular rock, a bush, a tree stump. The objects, or markers, will be at different angles from the hiding place...

In the 1970s, Stephen Vander Wall ran a tricky little experiment. He shifted the markers at certain sites, so that instead of pointing to where the seeds actually were, they now pointed to where the seeds were not...
The rest of the story and more details at the link.

"Ghastly facadism" decried

Excerpts and a couple photos from an interesting post in Spitalfields Life:
"As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio..."

I don't know the backstory, but the implication is that local building codes require developers of new properties to retain or install a facade comparable to that of the historic building being replaced.  I'll let the blogger offer the final statement:
A kind of authenticity’ is British Land’s oxymoronical attempt to sell this approach in their Norton Folgate publicity, as if there were fifty-seven varieties of authenticity, when ‘authentic’ is not a relative term – something is either authentic or it is phoney.
Perhaps some reader of TYWKIWDBI can fill us in with some background.


Image cropped for size from the original at imgur.
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