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.

In Olympic news today...

"The Tongan cross-country skier perhaps best known for walking out into the last two Olympic opening ceremonies without a shirt is set to take to the snow in the Pyeongchang Games...

Pita Taufatofua has joked that his two immediate goals are to not crash into a tree and to finish before race organizers turn the lights off.

Taufatofua says the 15-kilometer race is probably a bit of a stretch for him since all his qualifying races were 10 kilometers. He just started skiing this year and has not skied much on snow.

He says he has a “love-hate, hate-hate relationship” with the 15-kiometer race. The last time he raced in a 15-kilometer event he lost a ski and finished in 1 hour, 40 minutes."
Update: He exceeded his goals.
"After spending only 12 weeks on snow in his life, having seen snow for the first time two years ago, Taufatofua finished third last, nearly 23 minutes behind the gold medallist. Three other athletes did not finish the race."
Photo: Instagram

15 February 2018

This is an Olympic 1% gold medal

The 2012 "gold medal" is 92.5% silver, 6.16% copper and 1.34% gold.

Details at BoingBoing.

Reposted from 2012 because it is presumably still true. 

Questions about Canada and the Olympics

Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow?(UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street? (USA)
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto. Can I follow the Railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only Four thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of Vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada, but I forget its name. Its a kind of big horse with horns. (USA)
A: Its called a Moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

As explained at Snopes, these are all "fake" questions.  More at the link.

Reposted from 2010.

Winter Olympics medals adjusted for size of countries

The chart above was originally published in The Atlantic in the middle of the games; I don't know whether it has been updated to reflect the final counts.

Reposted (but not updated) from four years ago, because it's still interesting.

14 February 2018

"Gilding the lily"

To "gild the lily" is a misquotation from Edward deVere's (a.k.a. "Shakespeare") 1595 play King John (Act IV, Scene 2):
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess."
An article in the StarTribune notes how Valentine's Day roses are now being "improved" -
In a warehouse north of Ecuador's capital, a small, busy army of dexterous workers puts the final touches on a shipment of made-to-order roses with tones as diverse as the colors of a rainbow suffused in fragrance capable of seducing even the most demanding nose.

Each petal is custom made for foreign clients whose orders multiply every year in the run up to Valentine's Day. For example, a client in Qatar recently ordered a shipment in the maroon and white colors of that nation's flag...

The two-day process involves cutting a flower at full bloom, dipping it into a plant-based solution to extract the natural colors and then infusing it with a pigment of the customer's choice. Additional colors and designs are applied using an airbrush.

The result is a multicolored bouquet as vibrant as a painter's palette but whose petals keep their natural softness and require no sunlight or water to last a year or more.
Photo:  "Luxury Hat Box of Preserved Pink & Lilac Roses – Medium"

"Thanks for the Valentine, kid"

Color adjusted from the original posted here.

Where I fit in the political spectrum - updated

Update January 2009: When I started TYWKIWDBI in December of 2007, the circus carnival known as the "presidential primaries" was in full swing, so I thought it was important for me to "state for the record" what biases I might have. I explained that I was registered as an Independent and was supporting Ron Paul. Then I posted the following three graphs...

(2007 text) There are a number of online websites that allow one to assess one's position by answering a long list of questions. I completed one of these back in 2003, with the following result-

Another assessment site in October of 2005 showed me to be leaning ever so slightly libertarian -

The most recent one was last December, and I was squarely in the center -

So, that's "where I'm coming from." Not unbiased, certainly, but probably as much "in the center" as any person you're likely to meet. If you want to find out how you stand, try the quiz at this link... http://www.politicalcompass.org or at this one - http://www.okcupid.com/politics. It might be an interesting experience.

Update January 2009: I'm amused to note that I was such a "newbie" then that I didn't even post the links in clickable form. I'll correct that now. Here's the one for Political Compass, and here's the OKCupid one.

I'm posting this update today because the Weblog Awards are sending a flurry of new traffic here this week. There seem to be a couple hundred extra visitors per day, most of them wondering what this blog is about, and as a corollary, what this blogger is about. The charts above pretty well define me as a centrist on the political spectrum; I tend to have equal contempt for polticians of both major parties. Now that you know where I stand, I challenge you to go to the links and chart out your own political biases.

Update February 2018:  I decided to take the test again, and found my position on the chart has changed slightly but not fundamentally:

I don't know whether I have changed, or whether the test standard reference points have changed (the questions are the same as in 2003), or in fact whether the repositioning of my dot is statistically significant.

Political Compass now offers a cartoon-amended chart to show where various well-known persons would be (approximately) situated on the chart:

I'm pleased to see that I'm seated right next to Bernie Sanders.

You can take the test here.

The Gilded Age

Yesterday evening I watched the PBS documentary embedded above.  It is part of the "American Experience" series, and as such you can expect it to be superb documentary television programming, but this episode was particularly interesting because of the parallels between America's classic "Gilded Age" with our present circumstances.  I highly recommend this program. 
The Gilded Age in United States history is the late 19th century, from the 1870s to about 1900. The term for this period came into use in the 1920s and 1930s and was derived from writer Mark Twain's 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding... The Gilded Age was an era of rapid economic growth, especially in the North and West. As American wages were much higher than those in Europe, especially for skilled workers, the period saw an influx of millions of European immigrants... The political landscape was notable in that despite some corruption, turnout was very high and national elections saw two evenly matched parties. The dominant issues were cultural (especially regarding prohibition, education, and ethnic or racial groups), and economic (tariffs and money supply). With the rapid growth of cities, political machines increasingly took control of urban politics. In business, massive, powerful, and wealthy trusts formed... The point noted as the end of the Gilded Age also varies. It is generally given as the beginning of the Progressive Era in the 1890s...
If you don't enjoy watching your computer monitor for two hours, the program will be available from your local library in DVD format.

Addendum:  The embedded video is now "blocked on copyright grounds."  This link is still working.

13 February 2018

Can someone identify vintage children's literature?

I had good success earlier today asking readers to identify an unknown houseplant.  Let's try a literature question.

A lady asked my wife for help identifying the titles/authors of some books she loved in her childhood.  She remembers reading them in the 1960s when she was about 6 years old, but the books were subsequently lost in a home fire.  As an adult she would like to reread the books.
"One book is about a little girl who goes to a nearby carnival and steals the little dancing ballerina on a music box and takes it home. She begins to feel guilty and returns it. The most memorable part of this book is the illustrations; it had beautiful colored pencil illustrations.

The second book was read to students in class and all the person recalls about the plot is that one of the characters could turn invisible and was up in a tree some of the time."

Third book: A giraffe misses its little girl so runs to find her school. On the way there, she stops to help a woman whose clothesline has fallen...by holding it up with her head.
I know the readership of this blog is replete with bibliophiles and especially with librarians.  Can anyone harvest their knowledge base to help this lady?
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