Archive for General Disinterest

A bit of thoughtfulness

The 42nd and Treadmill complex parking lot has several sections, the smallest of which is usually occupied by my car. There is almost, but not quite, room for three cars. Staff doesn’t park there, except for me: I occupy the right-hand space, and have for many years. Recent Adventures in Immobility have not made it necessary to move; it has required only one lift over the standard concrete end-of-space barrier.

Then the powers that be removed the barrier from the middle space, so I can just wheel right through it. It’s still a sharp right turn, but no more lifting, so I’m fine with that. Still, it has been observed that I need as much space to the left of the car as I can get, so Phase Two was introduced today: a No Parking sign installed in that middle space. There remains plenty of room for one more car, but there’s no way that car can get in my way.

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Familiar terrain

Visitors welcomed under certain circumstances:

Map of an Introvert's Heart

(I saw this on FB, but this is where you’ll find the original by Gemma Correll.)

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Deep heating

Fire, says Sgt. Mom, governs the wilderness:

Certain of the native plant seeds do not even properly germinate until heated to so-many degrees. The plants themselves are resinous and burn readily, when the hot desert wind blows. This I knew, early on. The standing old-growth forests, and even the newer pine-woods in other parts of California and the west — they are governed, bound, ruthlessly maintained by cycles of naturally-occurring fire and renewal. Fire thins the new seedlings, eliminates disease-weakened trees, clears away the mast and muddle — the broom that ruthlessly sweeps away, and renews. This my father taught us. A lesson which certain environmental groups seem to refuse, with the energy of a small child refusing a spoonful of delicious creamed spinach. No! Don’t cut down those pine-bark-infested pine trees! No, don’t clear-cut that brush! It’s icky interference with nature! And don’t do controlled burns, which endanger the spotted lizard-owl something! So the burnable load increases, increases and increases again, and when it finally all goes up, it burns so hot that the earth turns clean and barren, like a kiln transforming clay into pottery. Nature deferred will extract her penalty.

Last weekend, the Carr Fire in northern California was about 5 percent contained. Progress is being made:

Over 200 square miles — so far.

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Hemaris 2: Eclectic Boogaloo

This is a European version of the hummingbird hawk-moth, which is a moth and not a hummingbird at all, but you have to look at it closely to be sure, and it’s not inclined to do you any favors:

Macroglossum stellatarum — not a member of Hemaris at all — has a sound all its own: “The beat frequency of the wings is about 70 to 90 beats per second and sounds like a laser sword in action.”

This member of the family is generally found in the warmer European climes, but is occasionally spotted in North America.

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Meet Hemaris

In the States, they’re known colloquially as “hummingbird moths,” because, well, they look sort of like hummingbirds, but they are in fact moths. The Brits call them “bee-hawk moths,” which, to me at least, is a tad harder to explain.

That said, they have a definite photogenic quality:

Have a banana.

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Going all carb-eyed

Yesterday, Fillyjonk, having seen this, came up with her very own haiku for carbon, which I took as an assignment: write one myself, in a maximum of sixty seconds.

Perhaps I should have spent more time on that assignment:

Half-dozen protons;
Mass of twelve, perhaps fourteen,
Though we’re not dating.

I suppose it’s a good thing we weren’t working on molybdenum.

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Savage young beagle

It seemed like a good idea at the time:

It should have worked. I mean, I’ve dropped stuff down in there that couldn’t be found for months.

Maybe this needs to go to the next level:

Surely he won’t give up that easily.

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Rooneyer than thou

Roger dropped this at the very bottom of a post:

The database also can track the most gender-neutral name of the decade. With Rooney, a baby with this name is only 0.29% more likely to be a baby girl than a baby boy. Other gender-neutral names include Clarke, Amory, and Cypress.

I concede that none of those names triggers any gender-related thoughts in the back of my mind. (Maybe Cypress, since there are a lot of traditionally feminine names derived from flora, such as, well, Flora.) What I’m wondering is whether there’s any tendency for gender-neutral names to remain gender-neutral; Kelly seems to be holding on, but Carol and Beverly have gone almost entirely female. I recall one case where two Kellys wed, one man and one woman, though they eventually split up. Then again, “Taylor,” almost certainly due to Taylor Swift, is likely destined for Girls Only, and her brief dalliance with Taylor Lautner probably doesn’t matter in this weird calculus.

And what of Rooney, anyway? We all know Rooney Mara, and we also know her older sister Kate. What we tend to overlook is that they have the same middle name: “Rooney,” likely for Art Rooney, their great-grandfather on their mother’s side, founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Tim Mara, great-grandfather on their father’s side, founded the New York football Giants; his son Wellington co-owned the Giants for many years.) Anyway, Kate’s first name is actually “Kate”; Rooney’s is “Patricia.”

Oh, and Roger has a sister named Leslie, which is also fairly gender-neutral, though if you spell it “Lesley,” you’re almost certainly a girl.

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Without any particular scrutiny

I really expected my auto-insurance premium to nudge up a notch or so this time, mainly because this renewal period includes my 65th birthday, and reaching 65 is allegedly the inverse of reaching 25, when beleaguered males of the species finally get something of a price break.

It didn’t happen. The bill for six months’ worth of coverage is exactly the same as it was six months ago; every single coverage is unchanged in price.

I’m not complaining. But I may be a trifle worried come November.

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How inexorable is it?

“Is there any chance the gate will hold back the lava flow?”

“No. No chance at all.”

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Every 221 years or so

But you may not have to instruct future generations to watch for it:

Every few years, a buzz fills the air in the southeastern United States as adolescent cicadas crawl out from the soil to molt and make babies. After a childhood spent sipping tree sap underground, some species emerge every 13 years, others every 17 years, rarely overlapping. Yet somehow in this giant cicada orgy, hybridization happens between species that should be out of sync.

Researchers have sought to explain how the two life cycle lengths developed. A new study published online April 19 in Communications Biology fails to pin the difference on genetics, but finds some interesting things along the way.

Cicadas fall into three species groups that diverged from one another about 3.9 million to 2.5 million years ago. Within each of those groups, species on a 13-year schedule diverged from 17-year-cycle cicadas about 200,000 to 100,000 years ago, the researchers from the United States and Japan report.

But the researchers also found that the 17-year and 13-year broods within each group share genetic code — evidence of hybridization.

Of course, outside the Eastern time zone, cicadas don’t give a flip about the calendar.

(Via Fark.)

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Nowhere near extinct

And, I hasten to add, not native to the United States:

The tree in question comes from, yes, the Caucasian region, though seeds were brought to western Europe circa 1800.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Tromp that bugger three or four times

You don’t really want to say anything nice about cockroaches, but let’s face it: they’re resilient little bastards. As witness:

The American cockroach is fast, moving at a rate of 50 body lengths per second. When racing across the floor to avoid a predator, a cockroach may aim for a wall and take it headfirst. Such a collision should stun the bug, but they have a shock-absorbent body that not only protects them from damage, it also allows them to channel that momentum into actually crawling up the wall.

Researchers sent 18 male cockroaches running on a paper-lined surface that ended in a wall. They filmed them with high-speed video at a rate of 500 frames per second and some motion tracking software to see how the bugs made it up the wall. Both of these were important because, to the naked eye, the roaches appear to scurry up the wall without missing a step. They just appear to effortlessly change from a horizontal dash to a vertical one.

Once the researchers looked at the footage, however, they discovered that the roaches would rather ram their heads right into the wall, absorb the force, bounce to a climbing angle and continue scurrying. This method was used 80 percent of the time. The rest of the time, the roaches angled themselves up a bit before colliding with the wall, resulting in a slower approach.

Let’s see Keith Richards try that.

(Via Fark. And here’s some mood music to go with it.)

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Nice knowing you, Pop

Mental Floss — it looks like they got rid of the underscore in the middle — has put out a list of “25 Unexpected, Brilliant Uses for Bubble Wrap,” and there’s some serious ingenuity therein. Number 20, for instance, deer repellent:

If deer keep invading your garden, it’s time to roll out the wrap. Instead of using deer netting, which is often a hazard for insects and birds, lay Bubble Wrap at garden entry points (stapling it to plywood can prevent flyaway situations). When covered with grass, hay, or leaves, this camouflaged deterrent will spook deer that attempt to cross it.

What’s the inverse of serious ingenuity? This:

Getting freaky, indeed.

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Funambulist cat

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a normal cat, a member of the family Felidae, will not grow up to be one of the Flying Wallendas.

That knowledge does not prepare you for this:

No drunk in a midnight choir ever tried this. I hope.

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Unexpected meal

The deer has never seen a creature quite like this before:

Relatively satisfied with the results, the deer moves on.

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Non-mystery pipes

“This guy,” I said recently of a plumber, “gets $100 an hour.”

This girl doesn’t, but then she’s not installing a whole-house (well, a half-whole-house) filtration system:

What are the chances that I’d have a spout like that?

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And your mail can fly

Next year, the Postal Service will issue a commemorative John Lennon stamp:

2018 John Lennon stamp

The image, by photographer Bob Gruen, is from the 1978 session that produced the Walls and Bridges LP jacket. Apparently, what with the “FOREVER” logo, this is a standard-priced first-class stamp.

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Resetting the Scrutinizer

I almost called this “Totality Achieved,” since I wrecked my car this summer, and Unblinking Insurance declared the ancient Japanese sled a total loss. Unwilling to accept this verdict, I reacquired the vehicle from them and had the appropriate body repairs done.

I puzzled for a while as to what I should do with my existing insurance policy: obviously there’s no point in continuing to pay for collision coverage, but the other coverages are likely to cost more, because — duh! — I’d just had a wreck. And this week, when the renewal arrived, I judged it to be pretty much a wash: for the next six months I’ll pay an extra $60. If this sounds like a lot to you, you probably aren’t carrying the absurd level of coverage I do.

Usually this is the point where I detail how much each component of the policy went up or down. But inasmuch as this event constitutes a major change, the new numbers are, in my view, no longer statistically significant. So I’m declaring a new baseline, and we’ll see what happens in May. For the moment, I’m grateful for not having being dropped entirely.

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Waiting for the Traveling Salvation Show

First there was Sean John Combs. At some point he became Puff Daddy, then simply Puffy; later on, he declared himself P. Diddy, eventually truncated to Diddy.

Lot of names for a young man. And on his 48th birthday, he changed once more:

I’m not saying this won’t last long: past performance is no guarantee of future results. For the record, though, he’s still @Diddy on Twitter — for now.

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These are not lazy circles in the sky

“The cactus is our friend,” sang Maria Muldaur in “Midnight at the Oasis.” Not if you’re a hawk who happened to get stuck:

I’m trying to imagine the editing job it took to get this down to less than a minute forty. “We got 99 seconds, and this bird” — well, you get the idea.

(Speaking of editing, or the lack thereof, our Bird Healer tosses several F-bombs and such, which are duly reproduced in the captions. You have been warned.)

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Aaaand… it’s gone

Old Kosciuszko Bridge, born 1939, died 2017

This was the old Kosciuszko Bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Queens. (The first span of its replacement was opened this past spring.) By the time you read this, all that remains will be a whole lot of rubble.

At noon yesterday, this announcement was made:

Tomorrow, 10/1, the NYS Department of Transportation will conduct an implosion of the old Kosciuszko Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens. The work will involve the use of explosives and will consist of warning sirens followed by a loud explosion at approximately 8:00 AM.

Motorists and pedestrians should expect traffic disruptions in the immediate area surrounding the bridge beginning tonight at approximately 10:00 PM. In addition, traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway over the new Kosciuszko Bridge will be temporarily stopped in both directions shortly before and after the implosion. Please use alternate routes on Sunday, 10/1 if possible.

How it will be done:

It will be demolished using a process called energetic felling, which requires the placement of little charges at key joints on the bridge so that when the charges go off, the bridge breaks apart and falls directly down. The pieces will then be dismantled and removed.

About 22 million pounds of steel from the demolition will be recycled as scrap metal, according to [Governor] Cuomo’s office.

The old bridge, opened in 1939, was designed for 10,000 vehicles a day. When it closed this past April, it was somehow carrying 180,000.

(Via Kevin J. Walsh.)

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The tale of the Giant Rat of the Solomons

It’s a Rodent of Really Unusual Size:

Though researchers working in the Solomon Islands have suspected the existence of the vika for two decades, the rat found by [Tyrone] Lavery and his colleagues John Vendi and Hikuna Judge is the first specimen recorded by scientists. They spotted it scurrying out of a felled tree, and judging by the shape of its skull, could tell that it wasn’t like other species of rats native to the area. Before its discovery, Lavery had spent so long looking for the elusive rat that he was beginning to think that maybe the children’s rhymes and folk songs referencing vika were just referring to regular black rats.

But his first instinct was correct. Uromys vika is more than four times the size of a regular rat, measuring about 18 inches long. It lives in trees, and its teeth are strong enough to crack into coconuts, chewing circular holes in the shells to reach the meat inside.

This is enough to cause nightmares. Me, I’m looking for dreams without so much rat in them.

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Less than wily

This young coyote was in the wrong place at the wrong time:

And, well, they couldn’t just leave him there.

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You otter know

A recent mental floss piece on underrated dog breeds includes these uncommon hounds:

Soon, the Otterhound may join the ranks of the Paisley Terrier and Braque du Puy as an extinct dog breed. Fewer than 1000 of the rough-coated hounds are presently accounted for, making the breed rarer than the Giant Panda.

Their origins can be traced back to Medieval England. During that time, most English families relied on stream-caught fish as a dietary cornerstone. Any decline in the local fish stock could spell disaster for entire communities — so, naturally, carnivorous river otters weren’t too popular. Enter the Otterhound. Bred with webbed feet and powerful tails that could act as rudders, the dogs were great amphibious hunters. Also, their keen sense of smell made them expert otter-trackers. (Other traits are less utilitarian: Many keepers have commented that otterhounds have a habit of sleeping with all four paws in the air.) When the English government banned otter-hunting in 1982, the breed became scarce and its long-term survival is now very uncertain. As owner Betsy Conway put it to The New York Times, “You’re talking about an ancient breed that no longer has a job.”

Here, Ms Conway shows you one of these critters:

I’ve seen only one Otterhound in my entire life, and that was a quarter-century ago. Six of them made it to Westminster this year.

Of the 189 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Otterhound ranks 160th, meaning there are 30 breeds even rarer, at least according to their records. Of the three at the bottom, two are foxhounds, in American and English versions. You don’t see a lot of fox hunting these days, either.

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Back into the light

A post-eclipse statement from Lynn:

I have something to say to all those people who made a point of declaring their lack of interest: Nobody is impressed with you and nobody cares what you think. Just shut up and go on with your sad, pathetic little lives and leave the joyful people alone.

So there.

I did watch some of the coverage on TV. It was nice to have a couple of hours when the country was focused on something besides politics. And you know, we could do that on any day — focus on something else, at least for a while. Most of us ignore the common, everyday wonders. Our sense of wonder and joy in nature are only awakened when a rare event occurs but there are wonders all around us all the time. I know that sounds like a cliche but it’s true and if we don’t, at least occasionally, slow down and enjoy those wonders we are not much different from those pathetic people who felt compelled to tell everyone that the eclipse was not a big deal.

If you don’t stop and smell the roses, what are you going to do when there are no roses?

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Outlaw to lead the police force

Danielle Outlaw from her days in the Oakland PDPersonal choice of the Mayor of Portland, Oregon, in fact:

Mayor Ted Wheeler today announced that he has selected Danielle Outlaw to become the next Chief of the Portland Police Bureau.

Outlaw is a 19-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department, where she served as a Deputy Chief since 2013. Outlaw will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday, August 10.

This file photo shows her in the uniform of the Oakland PD, in fact.

During the selection process, Mayor Wheeler emphasized the qualities he wants in a police chief, based upon the principles of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Mayor selected Outlaw based on her ability to provide leadership and supervision to over 950 sworn and 270 non-sworn employees, to work effectively with diverse communities, and to lead an organization committed to community policing, transparency and accountability.

I read her bio, and she served in several positions in the Oakland PD before being named Deputy Chief. I have every reason to think she’ll do a fine job, and I wish her well.

But needless to say, I’m not going to pass up an opportunity for a post title like this.

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Our chief weapon is annoyance

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition in the self-checkout line

And not one of you had better try to give her rack a turn, either.

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Live deadbolt

“I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key.” — Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”

Here’s how to do the first part of that:

How you persuade someone to leave a key presumably comes much later.

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The length of a dog’s memory

It reaches from the tip of his tail to the very end of time, and back again:

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s that none of us, human, canine, or whatever, is a blank slate; we are the product of what we have done and what has been done to us.

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