17 January 2017

Nose in a book


From the archives of The New Yorker.

Kate McCormick (1854-1875)

Kate McCormick
Seduced and pregnant by her father's friend
Unwed, she died from abortion, her only choice.
Abandoned in life and death by family.
With but a single rose from her mother.
Buried only through the kindness of unknown benefactors.
 Died Feb.1875 [sic] age 21.
Victim of an unforgiving society
Have mercy on us. 
Res ipsa loquitur.  Details at Amusing (!) Planet.

Why books sometimes have blank pages at the front or back

Two explanations from the Explain Like I'm Five subreddit:
"Imagine I took a standard piece of paper. I could fold it into 4 pieces, then cut the top and bottom a bit, staple it, and have a small book. This is called a signature. They can be as small as 4 pages, or much larger. A book is typically made up of several signatures.

The result is, I can take two 4 page signatures and make an 8 page book, but I have no way to make a 9 page book. If I add one page, I have no way to attach it. You can imagine if I stick the page in and just glue the end, it will easily fall out. I might be forced to make it fit in a 7 page book, or maybe print a 12 page book with some blank pages (some print methods can use 2 page signatures).

The short answer is that when making books its usually easiest to make them a certain way, and blank pages may be the result. A children's book might be 30 pages, but the publisher finds that one 32 page signature is the cheapest method of production. So they might add something to the pages, or maybe they leave them blank."  (credit Travis83)

"Different reason depending upon if the book is machine or hand bound. I'll mention the handbound reason, which is the original reason for having these blank pages. The opening blank pages are called fly leaves. The pages with writing/art is called the textblock. These pages, if loaded with art (illuminated) sometimes took days to create. The "pages" were vellum (calf skin) and as you can imagine were expensive to make. You want to protect this investment. When books were bound in leather, the tanned leathers would leak and damage the textblock, so the fly leaves were to protect the writing/art from damage. You would use the minimum amount to protect the text block because vellum was expensive to produce. With the advent of fiber paper, you could increase the number of fly leaves. Depending upon on the binding technique used there would a different number of these fly papers. Also, fly leaves are constructed to add structural strength to the book. A book opens and closes and making the hinge strong and durable are important, especially when you consider a town would save up just to buy one book. So there are numerous different construction methods in hand binding that is reflected on the type and number of fly leaves." (credit rtfminc)
And here's the Wikipedia page on endpapers (inside covers + flyleaves), which I think will be the subject matter for the embedded images in the next divertimento. 

Ransomware taken to the next level

Krebs on Security reports that now paying ransom to cybercriminals does not ensure that the database will be restored:
Tens of thousands of personal and possibly proprietary databases that were left accessible to the public online have just been wiped from the Internet, replaced with ransom notes demanding payment for the return of the files. Adding insult to injury, it appears that virtually none of the victims who have paid the ransom have gotten their files back because multiple fraudsters are now wise to the extortion attempts and are competing to replace each other’s ransom notes.

At the eye of this developing data destruction maelstrom is an online database platform called MongoDB. Tens of thousands of organizations use MongoDB to store data, but it is easy to misconfigure and leave the database exposed online. If installed on a server with the default settings, for example, MongoDB allows anyone to browse the databases, download them, or even write over them and delete them...

Merrigan and Gevers are maintaining a public Google Drive document (read-only) that is tracking the various victims and ransom demands. Merrigan said it appears that at least 29,000 MongoDB databases that were previously published online are now erased. Worse, hardly anyone who’s paid the ransom demands has yet received their files back...

For now, Merrigan is advising victims not to pay the ransom. He encouraged those inclined to do so anyway to demand “proof of life” from the extortionists — i.e., request that they share one or two of the deleted files to prove that they can restore the entire cache.
What an unholy hell of a situation.

Modifying public streets to assist the visually impaired


Via Neatorama.

Scary photo of an Indian tea plantation


Don't know why it's scary?  More info here.

Photo via the Pics subreddit, cropped for emphasis.

Arab and Berber pirates abducted and enslaved Icelanders

Events from the 17th century that are generally not known, and do not enter discussions of the history of slavery:
In 1627 Barbary corsairs from Algiers and Salé descended on Iceland in two separate raids, taking around 400–900 prisoners (Iceland's population at the time has been estimated to have been about 60,000). This event is popularly known in Iceland as Tyrkjaránið – the 'Turkish Raid', as it was launched from areas under Ottoman sovereignty, although no North African Turks (Kouloughlis) are known to have been involved. Most pirates were Arabs and Berbers, a large part - the Dutch and other Europeans, who converted to Islam... Those captured were sold into slavery on the Barbary Coast
More on the Barbary pirates.  I remember reading a Landmark book about them when I was in the seventh grade (and blogged about it seven years ago) , but I had forgotten the details.

The Weather Channel calls out Breitbart

"Earth is not cooling, climate change Is real and please stop using our video to mislead Americans. "

Save the date: 2022


That's when a new star will rise in the east and dominate the sky.  This is the result of a collision of two stars that happened 1800 years ago.
Before their meeting the two stars were too dim to be seen by the naked eye, but in 2022, the newly formed Red Nova will burn so brightly in the constellation Cygnus that everyone will be able to to see it...

For around six months the Boom Star will be one of the brightest in the sky before gradually dimming, returning to its normal brightness after around two to three years...

The forecast was made officially at a press conference on Friday, all the more poignant because it coincided with the epiphany, which commemorates the visit of the Three Wise Men, who followed the star to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus.
Some information on how the prediction was made is at The Telegraph.  Embedded image cropped for size.

Recycling wind turbine blades


It's not easy -
Unfortunately, one of the largest components of a wind turbine —the blades— are completely unrecyclable.

Turbine blades are made from glass or carbon-fiber composites. These materials are strong, lightweight and has a significant aerodynamic advantage, but they are nearly impossible to recycle. Hence, at the end of their lifecycle, most of these blades end up as waste on landfills. According to one estimate, there will be 50,000 tons of blade waste in 2020, which will rise to more than 200,000 tons by 2034.

The current scenario is grim. There is only one industrial enterprise that recycles end-of-life turbine blades, and that’s in Melbeck, in northern Germany...

In 2007, the Rotterdam municipality unveiled a playground for Kinderparadijs Meidoorn built out of rotor blades that were originally destined for landfills...
The city also has public seating at the Willemsplein square where nine intact rotor blades were placed at various angles to create ergonomic public seating with a diversity of seating options...
The rest of the story is at Amusing Planet.

Photo credit: Denis Guzzo/Flickr

15 January 2017

Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain), Peru


Located just 3 hours from Cusco, but comparatively unknown until recent years when climate change caused the overlying snow to melt and reveal the colorful formation.  More photos at Google Images.

Further discussion and relevant links at the EarthPorn subreddit. 

Tip: "there are locals with horses that charge $20-30 to take you to the top."  Useful to know because the hike begins at an altitude of 14,000 feet and rises to 17,000 feet where the above photo was taken.

Class action lawsuits

If you have purchased a milk product in [any of the states highlighted above] since 2003, you are eligible to share in a $52 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit that accused milk cooperatives of conspiring to raise prices.
Applications can be filed online at www.boughtmilk.com.  You don't have to give details of your purchases.  You have until the end of January to file your claim.  More information at the Wisconsin State Journal.

The lawsuit administrator estimates that consumers could get between $45 and $70, but it could be a just few cents - depending on how many people apply

On the other hand... attorneys will receive $17.3 million of the settlement.

In another class-action lawsuit, a Johns Hopkins physician was found guilty of secretly taking sexually explicit photographs of his female patientsIn the settlement of that case, "each woman is set to receive between $1,750 and $26,048. A judge ordered that $32 million of the total settlement would go to attorneys..."

Correlation is not causation








More examples here.  Please share the link, because way WAY too many people do not understand this fundamental principle of science.

Anne Frank's biography viewed as pornography

Gail Horalek, the mother of a 7th-grade child in Michigan in the US, has made international headlines by complaining that the unabridged version of Anne Frank's diary is pornographic and should not be taught at her daughter's school. At issue for Horalek is a section detailing Anne's exploration of her own genitalia, material originally omitted by Anne's father, Otto Frank, when he prepared the manuscript for publication in the late 40s. I had to look up what age kids are in the 7th grade. They're 12 to 13! They're only about a year younger than Anne was when she wrote of her vagina: "There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!" There cannot be a 13-year-old girl on the planet who hasn't had a root around and arrived at this exact stage of bafflement...

Anne is going through puberty, and she describes her changed vagina in honest detail, saying, "until I was 11 or 12, I didn't realise there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris." (Oh Anne, we've all been there.) She continues: "In the upper part, between the outer labia, there's a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That's the clitoris." It's beautiful, visceral writing, and it's describing something that most young women experience.

And yet I can understand that the junior Ms Horalek would have squirmed and wished herself elsewhere when this was read in class...
More in a column at The Guardian.
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