23 February 2018

Divertimento #147


Interesting packaging for Spiderman Kleenex.

A mass grave in England apparently contains 300 skeletons from the Viking Great Army.

The near-Ice-Age younger Dryas period (13,000 years ago) was probably caused by the impact of fragments of a 62-mile-wide comet. "“A number of different chemical signatures – carbon dioxide, nitrate, ammonia, and others – all seem to indicate that an astonishing 10 percent of the Earth’s land surface, or about 10 million square kilometers, was consumed by fires."

Hospital room in Romania, 2018, discussed here.

Thomas Morris is a website dedicated to "making you grateful for modern medicine."

During the Superbowl, an advertisement for Ram Trucks superimposed the voice of Martin Luther King over images of their product (this was done with the permission of his estate).  A modified version dubs in what MLK actually thought about advertising. "In fact, the quote used during Sunday's Super Bowl commercial was taken from the very same sermon in which King warned the audience about the way advertisers manipulate feelings of groupthink, loneliness and a need for conformity masquerading as individuality."


Autonomous (self-driving) cars have difficulty detecting and recognizing bicycles and their riders.

For golfers only:  a group of pros are challenged to get closest to the hole on a 200-yard putt.

From the NYT: FEMA Contract Called for 30 Million Meals for Puerto Ricans. 50,000 Were Delivered.

From Minnesota Public Radio:  "How a urine test after back surgery triggered a $17,800 bill."

Tesla spends nothing on advertising.

A harsh rejoinder to those who complain about immigration.

"The toad’s reaction to the explosion deep in its stomach is not instantaneous. But in time the body shakes, the mouth opens, and the culprit is expelled: a mucus-covered beetle that will live to fight another day."

Monaco has the highest concentration of millionaires of any place in the world (over 30% of the residents). House pricesare  between €53,000 ($67,000) and €100,000 ($142,000) per square metre.  So the country is adding 15 acres offshore in the Mediterranean.

A photo of $20,000,000 hidden under a mattress.


Some high schools in Oklahoma are closed on Mondays so teachers can work second jobs.  "Teacher pay is the third-lowest in the country and has triggered a statewide shortage, as teachers flee to neighbouring states like Arkansas and Texas or to private schools. “Most of our teachers work second jobs,” says Darlene Adair, Wagoner’s principal. “A lot of them work at Walmart on nights and weekends, or in local restaurants.”  Other state agencies are doing similarly badly.  Details at the Economist link.

There is a "Pile of Puppies" program for children with special needs.

For an interesting longread, try the multipart series at Reuters on "Body Brokers" (the buying and selling of body parts).  It explains who cashes in when you donate your body "to science."

"With 15 years of competitive jump rope experience, 2 world records, multiple World and European Jump Rope Championship wins and even a Cirque du Soleil membership, it's safe to say that no one is better at jumping rope than Adrienn Banhegyi." (3-minute video at the link)

One way to prevent the spread of the flu is to use Far-UVC light to kill the virus.  That spectrum of light is both carcinogenic and cataractogenic, but it could be employed freely in ventilation ducts.

Waiting for the Uber driver.

"Cardistry" is playing card artistry.  Demonstrated in the video.

Video on how Criterion Collection restores old movies.

"The Queen has declared war on plastic, banning straws and bottles from the Royal estates... It is thought that the Queen became personally interested in the problem of plastic after working with Sir David Attenborough on a conservation documentary dealing with wildlife in the Commonwealth."

Video of the newest robot from Boston Dynamics.

A group of runners completed 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.

Ever wonder how many calories Olympic athletes consume?  A chart for the winter Olympics shows cross-country skies at the top (4,000 - 7,000 calories per day).  (Curlers are not listed)

The most enjoyable obituary I've read in as long as I can remember.


The photos embedded in today's divertimento come from Skeetmotis, a blog created by a TYWKIWDBI reader as a place to store photos of interesting things seen while walking.

22 February 2018

Salzburg, Austria, 1929


There's so much detail to savor in this photograph from National Geographic.  The hats draw one's initial attention, but look at the elaborately designed clothing and accessorizing.  Some reader may be able to offer more insight into whether this fashion was local tradition or more widespread in the era.

Technically correct


The manufacturer can always fall back on the argument that the plastic cover for the hose nozzle was "made in America" even though the nozzle wasn't.  Discussion thread of this shady practice here.

"Dog's breakfast" explained

Last weekend at a local auction the auctioneer started to enumerate the contents of a lot, then stopped and said it was a real "dog's breakfast."  It's a British phrase (he was Canadian), and the meaning was obvious, but I couldn't parse out the derivation.  I found this in a 25-year-old New York Times On Language column:
"A dog's breakfast is any kind of smorgasbord prepared, in haste or at random, from life's castoffs... The slang lexicographer Eric Partridge cited Glasgow circa 1934 as its place and time of origin, though he noted that Australians also used the phrase with the same meaning as "confusion, mess, turmoil."

About the same time, a dog's dinner appeared with a quite different sense. "Why have you got those roses in your hair?" asked a character in "Touch Wood," a 1934 novel by C. L. Anthony. "You look like the dog's dinner ." This expression was defined by the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement as "dressed or arranged in an ostentatiously smart or flashy manner," probably derived from the 1871 usage "to put on the dog ." 
The derivation summarized:  "Although the origin isn’t exactly known, it alludes to the fact that if what you don’t succeed at what you are cooking, then the results are only fit for a dog... It is suggested that this dates from a time before canned dog food when a pup’s breakfast would have consisted of dinner leftovers from the night before; hence, “a mess.”

And then there's "dog's bollocks," used to connote absolute excellence.

Cartoon credit here.

A better way to stripe a parking garage


Parking garages - especially underground ones - are famously ill-lit and the stripes on the pavement seldom repainted.  I applaud this simple vertical extension, posted at the Mildly Interesting subreddit,

"Trash Girl" owns the insult applied to her by haters


The term "owning" something is a common modern catchword.  Everyone is urged to "take ownership" of their lives, employees are urged to "take ownership" of their work, persons with illnesses are advised to "own" the symptoms.  What's often not clear is what that means, or how one achieves the desired result.

Here's a good example of taking ownership:
... 12-year-old Nadia Sparkes decided to take matters into her own hands. The high schooler has been picking up trash along the two-mile route from her school to her home for months now, using the basket of her bike to bring the trash home. In just the short amount of time that she has been picking up trash, Nadia has already accumulated more than two recycling bins worth of plastic.

Despite her green intentions, some of the kids at Nadia’s school have dubbed her “Trash Girl” and have bullied her for her noble efforts to help the planet. It would be easy to succumb to mean comments and stop picking up trash, but on the contrary, Nadia is more determined than ever to clean up her community...

“I told her she had two choices, she could either stop collecting rubbish, stop drawing their attention and hopefully they would leave her alone. Or she could own “trash girl,” Paula Sparkes, Nadia’s mom, said about the bullies.

As a result of the media attention Nadia has received, she now has created a Facebook group aptly named “Team Trash Girl” where she shares updates on her efforts. Positive comments have poured in, all in support of Nadia, advocating for her to ignore the negative.
It was reading that story yesterday that prompted me to respond as I did to the egregiously vituperative comment posted on TYWKIWDBI.  Disagreement and a variety of opinions are unavoidable and perhaps essential, but hatred and bullying have no place in civil society.  One way to cope with those tactics is to own the insult.

21 February 2018

A comment left on the blog


I had to look up the meaning of "ass clown."  Found a detailed discussion of it at Slate:
As a swear, assclown is a newer member of that noble ass- family, sibling to assbag, assbucket, asshat, asshole, asswipe and any number of other ass + NOUN compounds. These formations variously ridicule someone as laughably and contemptibly idiotic, dickish, or worthless. Assclown, however, is a pejorative pie thrown especially in the face of someone who, wrongly, thinks his actions are clever, funny, or worthwhile...

Assclown has also been at the center of political controversy. In 2015, Minnesota sports producer Kevin Cusick had to apologize after suggesting President Obama was an assclown. Cusick put together a slideshow for the St. Paul Pioneer Press online that featured President Obama wielding a selfie stick. He captioned the image, used for larger social commentary on taking selfies as such: “A fool-proof way to make yourself look like a self-absorbed assclown.” ..
And thanks to this presidential election, philosopher Aaron James released Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump, a timely update to his 2012 Assholes: A Theory...

Where does Trump fit in? His type is the Assclown Showman Asshole, with a bit of the Bullshitter and Winner mixed in. And for James, the assclown is specifically “someone who seeks an audience’s enjoyment while being slow to understand how it views him.” When it comes to Trump, that sounds pretty accurate, but I’m certain we can all conjure up some far stronger words.
The comment was left on the Divertimento because I had closed comments on the President's Day post.

Addendum: The troll responded two days later.  He didn't leave a comment on this post where it would run the risk of generating responsers from other readers; instead he posted it at the post about ladies fashion in Austria -


This is absolutely classic troll behavior.

18 February 2018

Divertimento #146


So, you pay a helicopter pilot to carry you to the top of a mountain.  Your ski hits a rock.  Then this happens...

Granny flats and zoning regulations.

Google can create panorama photos for you.  They don't always come out right.

In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy hides his hammer in the book of... Exodus.

Arctic musk oxen succumb to an ice tsunami.

When asked about its color, 52 percent said a tennis ball is green, 42 percent said it’s yellow, and 6 percent went with “other.”

If you encrypt personal photos before storing them in the Cloud, you should know that there are programs that allow them to be unencrypted by other people.

"A 15-year-old gained access to plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran by pretending to be the head of the CIA to gain access to his computers."

A gallery of photos along Norway's Highway 69.

A meme generator for "Pepperidge Farm Remembers."

The Doomsday rule can determine the day of the week for any date in history.  In case you want to know if the Battle of Hastings was fought on a weekend.


"Just days after the House passed its version of the federal tax law slashing corporate tax rates, House Speaker Paul Ryan collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from billionaire energy mogul Charles Koch and his wife, according to a recent campaign donor report."  The Koch companies, in turn, will receive billions of dollars in tax relief.  They would like you to understand that all of this money will eventually trickle down to you.

Video of a farrier trimming the hooves of a draft horse.

"A US appeals court debated whether or not a monkey can own the copyright to a selfie..."

A compilation of bloopers from a televised fishing program.

IKEA furniture is built with cardboard (inside the particle board).  "They use the particle board for the parts that need to hold screws."

The best "icebreaker questions" for starting a new relationship: #1: What was your first job? #2: Have you ever met anyone famous? #3: Do you read TYWKIWDBI? #24: Do you collect anything?...

In a high-rise building, don't overfill a tub or pool on a windy day.

Copper isn't magnetic.  But it affects magnets.

"Parents are making their children drink industrial bleach to “cure” them of autism, with the potentially deadly practice traced back to a cult in the United States."

The National Security Agency has removed "honesty" from the core values listed on its website.


A "porch bandit" steals a package.  "On her way back to the car, she trips and falls. She can't get up. It looks like she broke her leg, because her foot is at a weird angle."

What ever happened to those kids who used to knock on people's doors and then run away before anyone could answer?  They got jobs.

"According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median four-year cost to attend public medical school exceeds $240,000."

"Over the past four years, some members of [Baltimore's] Gun Trace Task Force stole more than $300,000, at least three kilos of cocaine, 43 pounds of marijuana, 800 grams of heroin and hundreds of thousands of dollars in watches from suspected drug dealers and civilians, according to officers’ plea agreements and statements in federal court. They admit to putting illegal trackers on the cars of suspected dealers so they could rob their homes and sell off any drugs and guns they found."

Cellphone in a 1919 cartoon.

"Chickens raised in India for food have been dosed with some of the strongest antibiotics known to medicine, in practices that could have repercussions throughout the world. Hundreds of tonnes of an “antibiotic of last resort” – only used in the most extreme cases of sickness - are shipped to India each year to be used, without medical supervision, on animals that may not require the drugs but are being dosed with them nevertheless to promote the growth of healthy animals."  For fox ache.

A tree that weighs several tons will not be held in place by a rope when you cut it down.

The famed Nazca lines were damaged this month "when a trucker intentionally drove his tractor-trailer off a roadway that runs through the protected historic area..."

Scandinavians are no longer the world's best non-native English speakers.  That title has recently been gained by the Dutch.

A graph depicting a child's age vs. his/her willingness to help.

"Dye from the cochineal bug was ten times as potent as St John’s Blood and produced 30 times more dye per ounce than Armenian red, according to Butler. So when European dyers began to experiment with the pigment, they were delighted by its potential. Most importantly, it was the brightest and most saturated red they had ever seen. By the middle of the 16th Century it was being used across Europe, and by the 1570s it had become one of the most profitable trades in Europe..."

A discussion thread about bringing your own food into movie theaters.

Young boy watches little girl tumble, imitates her.


The photos embedded in today's linkdump come from a gallery posted at HistoryDaily, depicting rural librarians of the 1930s.  "In Kentucky, they had isolated mountain communities which could only get their books and reading material from one source… librarians on horseback." (via BoingBoing)

16 February 2018

The letter "D" (by Erte)

"He imagined that each letter was a character possessing the unique personality of a stage performer, a body made pliable by years of dance training and a style all their own. Some – such as “X”, with his black gimp mask, scarlet boots and thong, or “K”, bound to a Grecian column by a string of pearls and wearing only stockings – are explicitly erotic. Others, such as “T” and “C”, look like charmingly fanciful nymphs from “Fantasia”, a Disney film. “D” belongs to a third category. The bow and crescent moon evoke Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, but Erté, of course, added glamorous new ingredients: blue, star-spangled skin and sinuous curves reminiscent of the women in Persian miniatures he so admired."
More about Erte at Wikipedia.

Image and text from an article about Erte at The Economist.

Look how big the Titanic was



(It's the one in front in this composite with a modern cruise ship) (via)

Skating on Lake Baikal


 "I tell them, 'Pick up your litter.  Tidy up after yourselves.  Don't leave litter.  It all ends up in Baikal.'"

Skating on thin ice creates unusual sounds


Apart from the cracking sounds, there are also "boing-boing" sounds similar to the sound effects from Star Wars movies.  Those are created by a phenomenon called acoustic dispersion (more info via links at Neatorama).

Girls are now reaching puberty before age 10 - updated


And that's an average age of puberty - not an outlying limit for precocious individuals:
Scientists have found that the average age that breast development begins is now nine years and 10 months – almost a year earlier than a previous study in 1991.

They have yet to discover the reason behind the phenomenon but believe it could be linked to unhealthy lifestyles or exposure to chemicals in food.

The study was carried out in Denmark in 2006, the latest year for which figures were available, but experts believe the trend applies to Britain.

Data from America also points to the earlier onset of puberty.
In the nineteenth century the average age of onset of puberty in females was 15.  By the 1960s it was about 12.  Now it's under 10.

Lots of implications, some of them discussed a different article in The Telegraph:
These girls are towering over boys of their own age because, for girls, the growth spurt and development of breasts come first; periods come later. With boys, it is the other way round: their genitalia and sweaty armpits develop before their height shoots up. The last stage of the maturing process, when they are finally able to signal their manliness, comes when their voices break.

All these markers have been occurring steadily earlier for both boys and girls, but recent changes have been dramatic. In the 18th century, when Bach was directing the Leipzig choir, the average age at which a boy’s voice broke was 18. Choirmasters now have trouble finding trebles over the age of 13 or 14...

Parents, too, should be careful not to treat them as teenagers. “They need to look at their emotional, not their physical, development.
Photo credit PA.

Reposted from 2010 to add new data that suggests the trend is not pathological:
However, our archaeological research suggests that there's nothing to worry about. Children in medieval England entered puberty between ten and 12 years of age – the same as today...

In our study of 994 adolescents from medieval England, who died between 900-1550, we traced the stages of puberty by examining their canine teeth; the shape of their neck and wrist bones; and the fusion of their elbows, wrists, fingers and pelvises. Using these clues, we were able to work out the average age the children started puberty, reached their growth spurt, and reached full maturity. We were also able to work out when girls had their first period. The average age at which children entered puberty was the same as for most boys and girls today: between ten to 12 years. But medieval teenagers took longer to reach the later milestones, including menarche...

Our impression of what is the normal age for a child to reach each puberty milestone has been tainted by the use of data from children growing up in the challenging conditions of the last century, and an over reliance on the age of menarche, rather than the age at which children actually entered puberty, which appears to be unchanged.

Sign at an Australian church


The victims:


Trenchant commentary:


Onion commentary:

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
PARKLAND, FL—In the hours following a violent rampage in Florida in which a lone attacker killed 17 individuals and seriously injured over a dozen others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Wednesday that there was no way to prevent the massacre from taking place. “This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Indiana resident Harold Turner, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”
I'm closing this post to comments.  Send your comments to your legislators.

Top photo via.
Victims photo via.
Cartoon via.
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