04 February 2016


I never heard this word until encountering it at Futility Closet.  It wasn't even in my Random House - had to dig out the OED and get the magnifying glass:
Apricatev. rare.  [fr. Latin apricat].  To bask in the sun (or to expose to sunlight).  
Citations from 1691 to 1858 - the latter offering this curious turn of phrase:
"Not sunning, but mooning himself - apricating himself in the occasional moonbeams."
Reposted so my wife can once again enjoy seeing our old cat Boo-Boo enjoying the sun at our apartment in St. Louis fifteen years ago.

Jurassic lacewing vs. modern butterfly

"A study out today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: B that features IU paleobotanist David Dilcher as a co-author identifies a Jurassic-age insect whose behavior and appearance closely mimic a butterfly — but whose emergence on Earth predates the butterfly by about 40 million years.

Dilcher — who made international headlines last year for his role in discovering the mythical “first flower” — said these proverbial “first butterflies” survived in a similar manner as their modern sister insects by visiting plants with “flower-like” reproductive organs producing nectar and pollen."
"The butterfly-like insects, which went on to evolve into a different form of insect from the modern butterfly, is an extinct “lacewing” of the genus kalligrammatid called Oregramma illecebrosa. Another genus of this insect — of the order Neuroptera — survives into our modern era, and are commonly known as fishflies, owlflies or snakeflies...

... another evolutionary innovation found in the ancient lacewing fossils’ wings remained remarkably unchanged over the course of millennia: so-called “eye spots.”

This unique pattern on the wings, arising over 200 million years ago, is nearly identical to markings on the modern owl butterfly. To this day, owl butterflies use these circular marks as a defense mechanism against predators, which mistake the spots as the eyes of a larger, more threatening animal."
Text and images from Indiana University, via Vice's Motherboard.

I know what you meant to say, but...

Via Bad Newspaper.

Baby monitors can be hacked

Predictably enough, accounts are now surfacing of voyeurs and griefers who are using these capabilities to spy on, and taunt babies.

Jay and Sarah, parents in San Francisco, couldn't figure out what their three-year-old meant when he said he was scared to sleep at night because the "phone" kept talking to him, but then one night Sarah walked by and heard a stranger's voice coming out of the monitor, saying, "Wake up little boy, daddy's looking for you."

When Sarah walked in the room, the camera's night-vision lens turned to examine her and the voice added, "look someone's coming into view." 
Further details and links at BoingBoing.

Word for the day:
A griefer is a player in a multiplayer video game who deliberately irritates and harasses other players within the game, using aspects of the game in unintended ways. A griefer derives pleasure primarily or exclusively from the act of annoying other users, and as such is a particular nuisance in online gaming communities, since griefers often cannot be deterred by penalties related to in-game goals.

"Never have I seen a more beautifully kept toilet..."

A selection of photos of the toilet at John Wesley’s Chapel.
"There is a sepulchral light that glimmers as you descend beneath the chapel to enter the gleaming sanctum where, on the right hand side of the aisle, eight cedar cubicles present themselves, facing eight urinals to the left, with eight marble washbasins behind a screen at the far end. A harmonious arrangement that reminds us of the Christian symbolism of the number eight as the number of redemption – represented by baptism – which is why baptismal fonts are octagonal. Appropriately, eight was also the number of humans rescued from the deluge upon Noah’s Ark.

Never have I seen a more beautifully kept toilet than this, every wooden surface has been waxed, the marble and mosaics shine, and each cubicle has a generous supply of rolls of soft white paper. It is both a flawless illustration of the rigours of the Methodist temperament and an image of what a toilet might be like in heaven..."
"Yet before you leave and enter Methodist paradise, a moment of silent remembrance for the genius of Thomas Crapper is appropriate. Contrary to schoolboy myth, he did not give his name to the colloquial term for bowel movements, which, as any etymologist will tell you, is at least of Anglo-Saxon origin..."

Should your attention be entirely absorbed by this matchless parade of eight Crapper’s Valveless Waste Preventers, do not neglect to admire the sparkling procession of urinals opposite by George Jennings (1810-1882) – celebrated as the inventor of the public toilet. 827,280 visitors paid a penny for the novelty of using his Monkey Closets in the retiring rooms at the Great Exhibition of 1851, giving rise to the popular euphemism, “spend a penny,” still in use today in overly polite circles...
More photos and text at Spitalfields Life (a most interesting blog, btw).

If I had shoes like this...

View post on imgur.com

...maybe I could dance like her.


In a recent interview, Kate Winslet has agreed that there was room on the door for Jack.  A WaPo article discusses the issue and the Mythbusters investigation of the buoyancy of the plank.

Words for the day ("lagan" was new for me):
  • Flotsam is floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo.
  • Jetsam is part of a ship, its equipment, or its cargo that is purposely cast overboard or jettisoned to lighten the load in time of distress and is washed ashore.
  • Lagan (also called ligan) is goods or wreckage that is lying on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes marked by a buoy, which can be reclaimed.

"The ego has landed"

I am trying to minimize politics in this blog, but some political cartoons just beg to be reproduced.

This one is by Nick Anderson in Hearst Papers, via Jobsanger.

"What are the chances?"

One out of 64.  (Although I have read reports that it was 6 flips out of 7 - if so, some reader can calculate those odds for me).

The cartoon suggests that Republicans are upset; Salon's "Coingate" article says Bernie Sanders' supporters are crying foul. 

Time to move on.

Cartoon via Jobsanger.

03 February 2016

"Catching Kayla"

"Tom Rinaldi tells the remarkable story of Kayla Montgomery -- who, despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, has become one of the best young distance runners in the country."
Here's your inspirational video for the week. With a tip of the blogging hat to reader Jeffrey Olson for finding it and notifying me.

02 February 2016

Girl with a pearl headdress

I've been unable to find details about this painting, except that it is entitled "Girl with a Pearl Headdress" and is attributed to the "Central European School" in 1625-1635.

My train of thought on seeing this was to wonder what this girl would think were she to be transported to our modern world and be taken for a visit to our local Target store, where girls of a similar age consider themselves fully dressed while wearing millimeter-thick leggings topped by a Green Bay Packers t-shirt. 

Would she be... shocked?  Or jealous of their freedom?  Or... would our local tweens be jealous of her?

Via A London Salmagundi.

How some birds locate seed caches

Robert Krulwich explains:
Around now, as we begin December, the Clark’s nutcracker has, conservatively, 5,000 (and up to 20,000) treasure maps in its head. They’re accurate, detailed, and instantly retrievable.

It’s been burying seeds since August. It’s hidden so many (one study says almost 100,000 seeds) in the forest, meadows, and tree nooks that it can now fly up, look down, and see little x’s marking those spots—here, here, not there, but here—and do this for maybe a couple of miles around. It will remember these x’s for the next nine months...

When December comes... the trees go bare and it’s time to switch from hide to seek mode. Nobody knows exactly how the birds manage this, but the best guess is that when a nutcracker digs its hole, it will notice two or three permanent objects at the site: an irregular rock, a bush, a tree stump. The objects, or markers, will be at different angles from the hiding place...

In the 1970s, Stephen Vander Wall ran a tricky little experiment. He shifted the markers at certain sites, so that instead of pointing to where the seeds actually were, they now pointed to where the seeds were not...
The rest of the story and more details at the link.

"Ghastly facadism" decried

Excerpts and a couple photos from an interesting post in Spitalfields Life:
"As if I were being poked repeatedly in the eye with a blunt stick, I cannot avoid becoming increasingly aware of a painfully cynical trend in London architecture which threatens to turn the city into the backlot of an abandoned movie studio..."

I don't know the backstory, but the implication is that local building codes require developers of new properties to retain or install a facade comparable to that of the historic building being replaced.  I'll let the blogger offer the final statement:
A kind of authenticity’ is British Land’s oxymoronical attempt to sell this approach in their Norton Folgate publicity, as if there were fifty-seven varieties of authenticity, when ‘authentic’ is not a relative term – something is either authentic or it is phoney.
Perhaps some reader of TYWKIWDBI can fill us in with some background.


Image cropped for size from the original at imgur.

30 January 2016

The library of John V of Portugal

I've been reading about eighteenth-century Portugal in This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason, by Mark Molesky.  More about the book after the weekend, but I wanted to share this enticing description of the royal library:
During Joao V's reign, entire manuscript collections were purchased in France and England, and many works were sent by the authors themselves.  In addition to priceless documents pertaining to the history of Portugal and illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages (such as French King Francis I's Book of Hours and a history of the Jewish Wars by Flavius Josephus), there was an early Bible printed in Mainz in 1462, all 120 volumes of the Atlas Boendermaker, the first printed edition of Giovanni Balbi de Genoa's Catholicon (a Latin dictionary), in addition to etchings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and prints after Michelangelo, Titian, and Rafael.  One two-volume book contained 1,439 etchings by the fearless chronicler of the Thirty Years War, Jacques Callot.  In order to provide the king with a comprehensive overview of European art, prints and engravings were acquired by the thousands.  Bound in volumes of red morocco and stamped in gold with Dom Joao's coat of arms, the print collection became one of the central focuses of the library and was considered one of the foremost treasures of Europe.

Similar attention was given to decoration.  The walls were covered with oil paintings by Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Jan Breughel de Velours, Paul Bril, Rubens, Luca Giordano, Filippo Lauri, David Teniers the Elder, and Francesco Albani.  To provide illumination, gargantuan candelabras with yellow candles were statioined throughout.  There were giant terrestrial and celestial globes, rare clocks, an armillary sphere, pendulums to determine longitude, as well as an assortment of telescopes and other state-of-the-art astronomical and mathematical devices...
I'll blog more about the fate of the library later (though it can be inferred from the title of the book).

Image: "John V of Portugal Pompeo Batoni" Attributed to Pompeo Batoni - Own work, 2011-07-19. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
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