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Friday, May 29, 2015

So posting has been non-existent due to external obligations...

But will slowly return to light, then, perhaps at some point, normal.

Friday links

Here's Kurt Vonnegut's May 29, 1945 letter home after imprisonment in an underground slaughterhouse during the Dresden bombing.

The Real “No-Go Zone” of France: A Forbidden No Man’s Land Poisoned by World War 1.

How to Ship a Beluga Whale via UPS.

Pre-Sliced Bread was Once Banned in the United States.

This Is a Wheelchair for a Goldfish.

New Evidence May Solve Mystery Of America's Huge St. Louis Area Ancient City.

Japanese Farmer Finds an Enormous, Mutated Strawberry That Is Now Officially the Heaviest Ever Found.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Friday links

It's V.E. Day: 70 years ago today, World War 2 ended in Europe.

What Did The Romans Eat? Food And Drink In Ancient Times.


Roundup of Mother's Day links: good and bad animal and human moms, top sci-fi moms, history, videos and science, how grandmothers gave humans longer lifespans, gifts for your wino mom or wife, lots more.


An Illustrated Guide To Cat Physics

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include why superheroes don't kill, an excellent set of botanical mazes, and a 5 year old boy who perfectly recreates Bruce Lee's famous nunchaku scene.

It's V.E. Day: 70 years ago today, World War 2 ended in Europe

The beaten foe emerged. 

All over the broad Atlantic, wherever they had been working or lying hid, the U-boats surfaced, confessing the war's end. A few of them, prompted by determination or struck by guilt, scuttled or destroyed themselves, or ran for shelter, not knowing that there was none; but mostly they did what they had been told to do, mostly they hoisted their black surrender flags, and stayed where they were, and waited for orders. 

They rose, dripping and silent, in the Irish Sea, and at the mouth of the Clyde, and off the Lizard in the English Channel, at the top of the Minches where the tides raced; they rose near Iceland, where Compass Rose was sunk and off the north-west tip of Ireland, and close to the Faeroes, and on the Gibraltar run where the sunk ships lay so thick, and near St. Johns and Halifax and in the deep of the Atlantic, with three thousand fathoms of water beneath their keel. 

They surfaced in secret places, betraying themselves and their frustrated plans: they rose within sight of land, they rose far away in mortal waters, where on the map of the battle, the crosses that were the sunken ships were etched so many and so close that the ink ran together. They surfaced above their handiwork, in hatred or in fear, sometimes snarling their continued rage, sometimes accepting thankfully a truce they had never offered to other ships, other sailors. 

They rose, and lay wherever they were on the battlefield, waiting for the victors to claim their victory. 

~Nicolas Monsarrat ("V.E. Day," from The Cruel Sea)

Today, May 8th, is the 70th anniversary of V.E. Day (for "Victory in Europe") (wiki, BBC) in 1945, which saw the German surrender and the end of World War II in the European theater.* Lest we forget. English novelist Nicolas Monsarrat (1910-1979) was born in Liverpool and earned a law degree at Cambridge. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served on the North Atlantic convoys for several years. This experience led to his crafting perhaps the most highly regarded novel about modern naval warfare yet written - The Cruel Sea - which appeared in 1951 while its author was serving as a British diplomat in South Africa. An equally esteemed motion picture, starring Jack Hawkins, was made of the book two years later, and it remains a classic today. Several other Monsarrat novels followed, but none ever gained the stature of The Cruel Sea.

* N.B. V.E. Day is called "Victory Day" in Russia and is celebrated tomorrow, May 9th, with elaborate ceremony. 

Below is a generous theatrical trailer for The Cruel Sea, which actually shows some of the best bits.

Here's the Youtube description:
The novel The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat was an unflinching portrayal of life at sea during WWII on a boat tasked with protecting convoys and seeking and destroying U-boats. A runaway success, the novel had already sold over 4 million copies in just 2 years when Ealing decided to make the film version. Filmed aboard an actual Royal Navy corvette, The Cruel Sea tells the story of the sailors aboard the HMS Compass Rose: the bonds that form between them, the daily pressures they face and their epic struggle to overcome the enemy. Nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film, The Cruel Sea stars Jack Hawkins, Sir Donald Sinden and Stanley Clarke, and is a gripping insight into the lives of unsung heroes at sea during the war, and the agonizing decisions and incredible peril they faced on a daily basis.

Taken from Ed's Quotation of the Day, only available via email.  If you want to be added to his list, leave your email address in the comments.

Grandmothers gave humans longer lifespans

I've seen things along these lines before; they always warm the cockles of my grandmotherly heart*. Aside from the (invaluable, really) babysitting services, and the love, there's all that wisdom.  


Grandmother's Story by Hugues Merle
Help with childcare from grandmothers at an early stage of human history could have resulted in an evolutionary change which caused women to live long past the menopause, researchers said.

Female chimpanzees rarely live beyond their 30s or early 40s, when their fertility typically ends, but a computer simulation showed that the influence of grandmothers could extend their lifespan to human levels within 24,000 to 60,000 years.

A popular theory known as the "Grandmother Hypothesis" suggests that older women had an evolutionary benefit by caring for their grandchildren after their childbearing years were over.

S. Campolmi:A Visit From Grandmother
The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, backs up the theory by demonstrating that grandmothers alone, and not other factors like the development of larger brains, could result in women having longer lifespans.

Researchers suggested grandmothers may even have been responsible for increasing humans' brain size by allowing mothers to have larger families, which increased the pressure of natural selection on their children.

Most primates and mammals collect their own food after they have been weaned, but when African forests began to be replaced by dry savannah two million years ago, children were no longer able to forage for themselves.

The Grandmother Theory suggests that older women began performing childcare tasks such as cracking hard nuts or digging up tubers from the dry ground, which allowed their daughters to keep producing and caring for new babies.


This meant long-lived and healthy grandmothers could pass on their genes to more descendants, increasing the number of women who would survive beyond childbearing age.

Mathematicians simulated the impact of childcare from grandmothers on a society of animals which only lived for 25 years after reaching adulthood, similar to chimpanzees in the wild.

They found that thanks to "grandmothering" female chimps would evolve to live for 49 years as adults – a level similar to human hunter-gatherers – within the space of 24,000 to 60,000 years.

Prof Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah, senior author of the study, said: "Grandmothering was the initial step towards making us who we are."

It resulted in "a whole array of social capacities that are the foundation for the evolution of other distinctly human traits, including pair bonding, bigger brains, learning new skills and our tendency for co-operation," she said.

A Biologist's Mother's Day Song: Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you

Full lyrics (and guitar chords, for those of you so inclined) are below, but here are a couple of highlights: 
Just like two strands of DNA are spirally entwined
Your nature and your nurture are inspiringly combined
Scientists remind me and I find that it is true
Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you
I got nutrients and transcription factors
and nearly everything that matters
plus my prenatal environment (transplacental inheritance)
mRNA, mitochondria,
That back in the day once belonged to ya...


Lyrics:

To make one me you just add
Half of mom and half of dad
That is what I once believed
But I know now that I was wrong
I got so much more from you mom
Than just half a set of genes

I got nutrients and transcription factors
and nearly everything that matters
plus my prenatal environment (transplacental inheritance)
mRNA, mitochondria,
That back in the day once belonged to ya (theyre cytoplasmic)
and I just want to thank for supplying them

Just like two strands of DNA are spirally entwined
Your nature and your nurture are inspiringly combined
Scientists remind me and I find that it is true
Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you

Mitochondria power my cells
and they have DNA as well
Transcription factors modulate transcription
And since theyre in the cytoplasm
The eggs the only one that has em
and sperm I guess they dont have much ambition

My sex determination gene means that Im a guy
From you I got my X chromosome, from Dad I got my Y
X has over a thousand genes, Y has less than 92
Thats why more than half of everything I am is thanks to you

I roomed in your womb for nine whole months and never paid the rent
Your glucocorticoids shaped my hypothalmic development
I took in your blood and sucked it dry of every nutrient (its gross but true)
Sometimes I wonder where the time went (where did it go)
Sometimes I wonder where it went

I know Ill never understand all you have done for me (I'm not that smart)
But since you paid for college I'll get my B. S. degree (bachelor of science)
And I have learned its not BS but absolutely true
Slightly more than half of everything I am is thanks to you.

"It's not an even 50/50 split you get a disproportionate share of your DNA coming from your mom. Really important." - Robert Sapolsky

CHORDS
Verse: D A G G
Chorus: A bm G D x2 / G A D-A-bm / G A G D
Bridge: G A D G x2 / G A D-A-bm / G G A A -- rock on!

For your wino mom or wife on Mother's Day: FlaskScarf, tampon flasks, or the Wine Rack

Check out the FlaskScarf for women; they come in a variety of colors and stripes and have a hidden bladder than can hold up to 8-ounces of booze (or whatever). When you're thirsty just suck on your scarf!




From the makers the FlaskTie for men:


If your mom isn't a scarf person, there's always the classic tampon flask (which comes in a set of five!) or the Wine Rack, which would, since it holds 25 ounces of liquid in it's bra-shaped bladder, probably have some make-mom-look-like-Dolly-Parton properties :



Slightly classier are these fake lotion containers, which are actually very highly rated:

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

95-Year-Old World War II vet used his cane to fight off would-be thief

It's probably hard to intimidate someone who lived through the invasion of Okinawa. Too bad he didn't have one of those self-defense canes with a built-in stun gun.

MANCHESTER, N.H. (CBS) – Arthur Kemberis may be 95 years old and walks with a cane but this WWII veteran had the strength to fight off a would be robber who tried to steal his wallet.

“I am not a fighter. I am too old to do that but I did lift up my cane and struck him on the shoulder,” Kemberis said.

Arthur says the unexpected confrontation unfolded Saturday morning when he went to pick up his wife’s prescription at Walgreens in Manchester. Police say that’s when a suspect began following Arthur inside the store.

“I took the money out and he saw me after I took out the amount and I pushed everything back in my wallet,” Kemberis said.

Moments later outside in the parking lot the man approached Arthur and tried to grab his wallet several times but Arthur even at the age of 95 wouldn’t stand for it.

“He saw me coming up to strike him on the shoulders. I hit him three or four times,” Kemberis said.

Kamberis wasn’t hurt.

“He wasn’t very aggressive, but I was,” Kemberis said.


via The Blaze.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tuesday links

Happy Cinco de Mayo - some history, art and a brief video. And here's an illustrated history of Tex-Mex food.


Seven Of The Most Beautiful Botanical Mazes On Earth.



Man on trial for attacking lawyer attacks new lawyer in court.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include the NSA banning of the Furby, what happens to someone when they get tarred and feathered, lots of chicken related links for International Respect for Chickens Day, and a map of what each state has more of than any other.