22 August 2017

"Hair receiver," "ratts," and ratting

I saw a group of these in a local auction and had to look up some information:
Although rare today, the hair receiver was a common fixture on the dressing tables of women from Victorian times to the early decades of the 20th century. Its purpose was to save hair culled from the hairbrush and comb, which were used vigorously on a daily basis. The hair could then be stuffed into pincushions or pillows. Since hair was not washed as often as it is today, oils were frequently used to add scent and shine to hair. The residual oil made the hair an ideal stuffing for pincushions because it lubricated the pins, making it easier for them to pierce material. Small pillows could be stuffed with hair, which was less prickly than pinfeathers.

But possibly most important, hair receivers made the creation of ratts possible. A ratt (sometimes spelled rat) is a small ball of hair that was inserted into a hairstyle to add volume and fullness. The ratt was made by stuffing a sheer hairnet until it was about the size of a potato and then sewing it shut.
The word "ratt" as a Victorian term for a hairdo enhancer is interesting because decades ago I remember girls "ratting" their hair with combs to give the hairdo greater size; IIRC it was a back-and-forth motion, but no hair extensions or padding was involved.  I presume the words are distantly related in terms of etymology.

Image credit.

White nationalists with ancestral surprises

It was a strange moment of triumph against racism: The gun-slinging white supremacist Craig Cobb, dressed up for daytime TV in a dark suit and red tie, hearing that his DNA testing revealed his ancestry to be only “86 percent European, and … 14 percent Sub-Saharan African.” The studio audience whooped and laughed and cheered. And Cobb — who was, in 2013, charged with terrorizing people while trying to create an all-white enclave in North Dakota — reacted like a sore loser in the schoolyard.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, hold on, just wait a minute,” he said, trying to put on an all-knowing smile. “This is called statistical noise.”

Then, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he took to the white nationalist website Stormfront to dispute those results. That’s not uncommon: With the rise of spit-in-a-cup genetic testing, there’s a trend of white nationalists using these services to prove their racial identity, and then using online forums to discuss the results.

But like Cobb, many are disappointed to find out that their ancestry is not as “white” as they’d hoped... About a third of the people posting their results were pleased with what they found. “Pretty damn pure blood,” said a user with the username Sloth. But the majority didn’t find themselves in that situation. Instead, the community often helped them reject the test, or argue with its results...

For the study authors, what was most interesting was to watch this online community negotiating its own boundaries, rethinking who counts as “white.” That involved plenty of contradictions. They saw people excluded for their genetic test results, often in very nasty (and unquotable) ways, but that tended to happen for newer members of the anonymous online community, Panofsky said, and not so much for longtime, trusted members. Others were told that they could remain part of white nationalist groups, in spite of the ancestry they revealed, as long as they didn’t “mate,” or only had children with certain ethnic groups. Still others used these test results to put forth a twisted notion of diversity, one “that allows them to say, ‘No, we’re really diverse and we don’t need non-white people to have a diverse society,'” said Panofsky.
More at the link.

Gus and Ethel

From the archives of The New Yorker.

Philippine prisoners sleeping in a stairwell

Res ipsa loquitur.

Photo credit Noel Celis/AFP, via The Washington Post.

Episiotomies and "husband stitches"

The "husband stitch" is a legendary extra suture placed post-partum:
In the dark corners of the mommy blogosphere, the “husband stitch” has become a sort of maternity ward Slender Man. The much-feared extra suture, supposedly used to tighten the vagina after childbirth, has long been the rumored result of handshake deals done between husbands and doctors–presumably behind the backs of sedated new mothers...
Known as the “daddy stitch” or “husband’s knot,” the “husband stitch” was given its stickiest name by Sheila Kitzinger in her 1994 book The Year After Childbirth: Surviving and Enjoying the First Year of Motherhood. What was she describing? A procedure to “preserve the size and shape of the vagina, either to enhance a man’s pleasure in intercourse, or to increase the frequency of female orgasm.”..

A 2005 systematic review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that episiotomies did not help with incontinence or pelvic floor relaxation, and women had more painful sex as a result of the procedure. Finally, a 2012 randomized control trial of more than 5,541 women, showed that those who did not have episiotomies experienced fewer cases of perineal trauma, needed less suturing, and had a lower incidence of complications overall.

While episiotomies can be necessary and life-saving in rare instances, the research was clear—as a routine procedure, it made no sense to cut the perineum prophylactically...

Medically speaking, an extra stitch just doesn’t make any sense. The vaginal opening, or the introitus, has little impact on a woman’s (or man’s sexual) experience. Sexual pleasure depends more on the pelvic floor muscles—something that can be addressed through other interventions including surgery, but not a simple stitch...

In the end, the husband stitch is neither a myth, a joke, nor a procedure—but a strange three-headed monster involving all three.
Further details and discussion at Fatherly.

19 August 2017

Solar evaporation ponds

I was flying into Salt Lake City last week and noticed an interesting landscape (photo above).  After returning home I searched Google Maps and saw that this area was identified as "Compass Minerals":

"At our Ogden, Utah, location at the Great Salt Lake, we draw highly saline waters from the lake’s most remote areas into very shallow solar evaporation ponds to produce salt, sulfate of potash (SOP) and magnesium chloride."
I wonder if the coloration is the result of minerals alone, or whether the ecology of the ponds supports some type of microbial or algal flora.  Anyone know?  [see the comments]

Addendum:  Salt ponds in San Francisco Bay


This is a "milk door"

The dial (arrows missing) on the inside of the door allowed the apartment dweller to specify what he/she needed from the milkman. 

Via the MildlyInteresting subreddit, where someone added a photo of their home's "iron door":

18 August 2017

Late summer

After putting together a mega-post on Donald Trump, I needed a mental health break.  A walk on our front sidewalk did the trick.  Purple coneflowers are magnets for butterflies and bees.  The brown-eyed susans (Rudbeckia) provide a pleasantly contrasting background.

Trump clump #1

Earlier this summer I received a series of comments and emails from readers asking that I stop writing anti-Trump posts.  Surprisingly, those comments came not from pro-Trump supporters, but from progressives and non-residents who indicated they were getting enough Trump news from other sources and were seeking a little "fresh air" at TYWKIWDBI.  (the sentiment reflected in this comic):

FWIW, here are the political metrics for readers of TYWKIWDBI, as monitored by Quantcast:

(I'm not sure how Quantcast determines these affiliations; I suspect part of the large proportion of "independents" comes from readers in other countries.)

I've been holding back on writing posts about Trump, but I've continued to bookmark the material, and some of it is definitely worth sharing, especially for those readers who don't range as widely on the internet.  I've decided the best compromise is to cluster all the Trump material in a series of "Trump clumps" - basically one-topic linkdumps.  That makes the material available for those interested in it, while allowing the pro-Trump readers, the news-weary, the callous, and disinterested foreigners to zoom past all of it with a quick flick on the mouse.  Here we go...

There is now a Donald Trump "presidential commemorative coin" (image embedded at top).  It's not issued by the U.S. Mint.  It's gold-plated, with an "authentic look, weight, and feel" in a "plastic collector case."

Greenpeace devised a clever way to put graffiti on the U.S. embassy in Berlin without touching the building.

International tourism to the United States has been falling ever since the election of Donald Trump.

J.K. Rowling tweeted"Very much enjoying the German press at the moment. "Earth to Trump..." (explanatory image at the link).

Crawler on CNN: "President's spokesman says he can't speak for the President."

Canadian supporters of Donald Trump tried to organize a "Million Deplorables March."  Right-wing media claimed thousands attended.  The local police said the number was in the hundreds.  Photos show more participants in a morning yoga class held at the same location.

Donald Trump's ancestors changed their surname from "Drumpf" to "Trump."

Video of that iconic incident when Trump's cabinet members were  invited to praise him.

"While President Trump berates Qatar for sponsoring terrorism at the highest levels, he is simultaneously authorizing the country to purchase over $21 billion of U.S. weapons."

Michael Gerson, top aide to President Bush, describes Donald Trump.

There seem to be an endless number of tweets of "Trump criticizing Trump."  Also this one.

"The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, are tracking more than 500 key executive branch nominations through the confirmation process. These positions include Cabinet secretaries, deputy and assistant secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsel, heads of agencies, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions."  As of August 17, 364 of those positions don't even have nominees yet.

"President Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida has asked permission to hire 70 foreign workers this fall, attesting — in the middle of the White House's “Made in America Week” — that it cannot find qualified Americans to serve as cooks, waiters and housekeepers."

Scaramucci is already gone.  One of his tweets was interesting.  Also his mimicry of the president.

Ivanka Trump tweeted a quote "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts," attributing the quote to Albert Einstein.  Here's the perfect rejoinder.

A thoughtful essay by George Will posits that "Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency. Executive power expanded, with only occasional pauses (thank you, Presidents Taft and Coolidge, of blessed memory), throughout the 20th century and has surged in the 21st... Fortunately, today’s president is so innocent of information that Congress cannot continue deferring to executive policymaking... Furthermore, today’s president is doing invaluable damage to Americans’ infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness..."

"Cohen, who is also a top Democratic ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, announced on Thursday that he would be filing Articles of Impeachment against Trump."

"Ghostwriter Tony Schwartz, who spent over a year with Trump and was the co-author of the memoir, Art of the Deal, has predicted that Trump will resign, maybe as early as by the end of summer."

Tina Fey demonstrates "sheetcaking" as a response to the events in Charlottesville.  She suggests that all sane people deal with the upcoming white power rallies by not showing up because the counterprotest gives them a sense of legitimacy.

This is the "anti-45" symbol (Trump being the 45th president):

"Mitchell explained that he realized the number, when presented in a block-type font, looks eerily similar to a swastika. So, the artist moved the numbers closer together and tilted them by 45 degrees [and overlaid the numbers with the international symbol for "no"], creating a symbol that would be shared thousands of times on social media following the Charlottesville riots."
I'll close with some excerpts from an op-ed piece in The Guardian:
Like some kind of Shakespearean villain-clown, Trump plays not to the gallery but to the pit. He is a Falstaff without the humour or the self-awareness, a cowardly, bullying Richard III without a clue. Late-night US satirists find in this an unending source of high comedy. If they did not laugh, they would cry. The world is witnessing the dramatic unfolding of a tragedy whose main victims are a seemingly helpless American audience, America’s system of balanced governance and its global reputation as a leading democratic light.

As his partisan, demeaning and self-admiring speech to the Boy Scouts of America illustrated, Trump endlessly reruns last year’s presidential election campaign, rails against the “fake news” media and appeals to the lowest common denominator in public debate. Not a word about duty, service, shared purpose or high ideals was to be found in his gutter-level discourse before a youthful gathering of 30,000 in West Virginia. Instead, he served up a sad cocktail of paranoia and narcissism. It was all about him and what he has supposedly achieved against the odds.

Which, for the record, is almost precisely nothing. After more than six months in office, and despite full Republican control of Congress, Trump cannot point to a single substantial legislative achievement. The bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which finally went down in flames in the Senate last week, was the most spectacular and telling of Trump’s failures. His executive orders, such as the racist ban on Muslim travellers and last week’s bigoted attack on transgender people in the military, have mostly run foul of the courts or been pre-emptively ignored by those charged with implementing them...

The common factor in all these situations is Trump’s self-induced powerlessness and ignorance, his chronic lack of credibility and presidential authority and consequent perceptions of US and western weakness. And in the case of all three actual or potential adversaries – North Korea, Iran and Russia – these perceptions are highly dangerous. Precisely because US responses, actions and reactions can no longer be relied upon or predicted, by friends and enemies alike, the potential for calamitous miscalculation is growing. This uncertainty, like the chaos in the White House and the extraordinary disarray of the American body politic, stems from Trump’s glaring unfitness for the highest office. As is now becoming ever plainer, this threatens us all.
More at the link.

17 August 2017

Gravity waves + airglow

An Astronomy Photo of the Day from NASA.  The source link has details on how the colors form.

Did a "false flag" draw the U.S. into WWII ?

A "false flag" is one type of "black ops":
The contemporary term false flag describes covert operations that are designed to deceive in such a way that activities appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them.
A recent article at the Daily Beast asks whether a terror attack at the World's Fair in 1940 was designed to get the United States involved in WWII.
On June 4, 1940, Nazi Germany shoved the last British troop off the Continent at Dunkirk. Adolf Hitler moved his forces into position for a final cross-Channel invasion and occupation of England. That same month the new British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, dispatched a shadowy figure, Sir William Stephenson—later most famous as the original of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Agent 007—to set up a spy shop for Britain’s MI6 in Midtown Manhattan. A hero of World War One and self-made multi-millionaire, Stephenson was on neutral ground in America, but he and Churchill shared the conviction that nothing was more important to their nation’s chances for survival than winning American support for the war against Hitler. Then, on July 4, 1940, with throngs of holiday visitors at the New York World’s Fair, a time bomb planted in the British Pavilion exploded, instantly killing two New York City policemen and badly mauling five others. Was Stephenson behind the blast in an attempt to frame Nazis and their American sympathizers? Were these officers sacrificed to win American sympathy and draw a reluctant United States into the Second World War?
The article is inconclusive and presents no new evidence.  Posted because we are again in an era where everyone needs to be aware of the possibility of false flags with regard to both international and domestic terrorism.

"Eat! Eat! Eat! & Always Stay Thin"

Photographed during a visit to The House On The Rock.

There is one report of intentional tapeworm ingestion occurring in modern times:
The woman went to her doctor and admitted she’d bought a tapeworm off the Internet and swallowed it, says Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health...

Quinlisk says that the capsules sold in the past by snake oil hucksters, and online today, likely contain the microscopic head of a Taenia saginata.

“When people would order from snake oil medicine kinds of people a weight loss pill, it would be the head of a Taenia saginata … and it would develop into a 30-foot-long tapeworm in your body,” Quinlisk says. “The worm would get into your gut – it’s got little hooks on the head – and it would grab onto your intestine and start growing.”

And, technically, this parasitic infection, called taeniasis, does cause weight loss. 
More at the link.   Sadly, I need to block comments on this post because it will be a magnet for spam.

Also: CDC webpage on cysticercosis.

"Crowdcasting" explained

Pretend for a moment that you’re walking through your neighborhood and notice a line of people wrapped around the block outside a newly opened restaurant. Local food bloggers haven’t written about the venue, so you assume the trendy-looking crowd must be the result of contagious, word-of-mouth buzz.

There was a time when that may have been undoubtedly true — when you could trust that a crowd of people was, in fact, a naturally occurring mass of individuals.

But that time may be passing thanks to Surkus, an emerging app that allowed the restaurant to quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay the people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. They’ve even been hand-picked by a casting agent of sorts, an algorithmic one that selects each person according to age, location, style and Facebook “likes.”..
Welcome to the new world of “crowdcasting.” ...
The company’s tagline: “Go out. Have fun. Get paid.”

George said the company has amassed 150,000 members in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. Anyone can download the app. The members are of all ages and backgrounds, George said, noting that people are drawn by the chance to be social and get paid.

After quietly launching two years ago, Surkus members have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, including big-name brands, hospitality groups, live-ticketed shows, movie castings and everyday people who want to throw a party. George said users can be paid as little as $5 and as much as $100, though the average for most events is between $25 and $40. Prolific users, he said, can earn as much as $4,000 a year.
More about the other uses of the app at The Washington Post.

Percentage eclipse

We're looking forward to an 85% eclipse.  We won't get to experience the rush Annie Dillard describes, but it still should be awesome.

Image via.
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