Amazon Deals

New at Amazon

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Must read Mark Steyn on one-way "multiculturalism": Islam and the Rest of Us

Read the whole thing at his site.  Excerpts:
America and its allies expended a decade's worth of blood and treasure in Iraq, but we left no trace - because we were too polite to do any "cross-cultural sharing" of our own. So we live in a world of remorseless, incremental one-way multiculturalism - which is, ultimately, far more powerful than the laughably misnamed "shock and awe".
A couple of days ago, you'll recall, we featured current controversies over a metal cross retrieved from the rubble at Ground Zero, and a roadside cross marking a fatal accident in Lake Elsinore, California. American Atheists and the American Humanist Association are suing over both outrageous provocations.

On the other hand, as far as I'm aware, American atheists and humanists have no plans to bring any separation-of-church-and-state suits against the City of Minneapolis, for its observance at City Hall last month of "Hijab Day". Female members of the city council wore the hijab, as did the Chief of Police, Janeé Harteau, a lesbian who recently married her "favorite sergeant", Holly Keegel. I have no idea what Sgt Keegel wore for Hijab Day. Maybe she went as the Grand Mufti.

Hijab Day grows a little bigger around the world each year. Its purpose is to enable the rest of us to show our support for women who choose to go covered. In reality, for most Muslim women around the world, the choice is made for them - by men. In Afghanistan under the Taliban, women were forbidden by law from ever feeling sunlight on their faces. Maybe most of them would have "chosen" not to feel it anyway, but we'll never know, will we? And in the west young Muslimas who decline their fathers' and husbands' choices do so at their own peril:
Why aren't Noor Almaleki and Aasiya Hassan as famous as Matthew Shepard? They weren't in up-country villages in the Pakistani tribal lands. They were Americans – and they died because they wanted to live as American women.
Nonetheless, on Hijab Day, non-Muslim women like Minneapolis' Police Chief demonstrate their support for the right of women to "choose" to go covered by enthusiastically joining in. City Hall staffer Ilhan Omar enthuses: "I love cross-cultural sharing." So do I! Now that the lesbian police officers have spent the day in hijabs, when are we having Pride Day at the mosque?

Beware - It's the Ides of March.

Soothsayer:     Caesar!
Caesar:     Ha!  who calls?
Casca:     Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!  
Caesar:     Who is it in the press that calls on me?
                 I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
                 Cry "Caesar."  Speak!  Caesar is turned to hear.
Soothsayer:     Beware the ides of March.
Caesar:     What man is that?
Brutus:     A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
Caesar:     Set him before me; let me see his face. 
Casca:      Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar. 
Caesar:     What sayst thou to me now?  speak once again.
Soothsayer:     Beware the ides of March.
Caesar:     He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

~William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act I, Sc. 2) 

       On the fateful day, Shakespeare's protagonist encounters the soothsayer again:

Caesar:    The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer:     Ay, Caesar, but not gone.

~Ibid., Act III, Sc. 1) 

Caesar:    Et tu, Brute?  Then fall, Caesar!

The corpse was still lying where it had fallen, abased and stained with blood - that of a man who had marched west to the British Isles and the Ocean,and intended to march east to the thrones of Parthia and India, so that they too might be made subject to a single empire and all land and sea be governed from one capital; but no one dared to remain and recover his body.  Those of his friends who were present had fled, those who were outside were hiding in their houses; or changed their clothes and departed for the countryside and the nearby towns. 

~Nikolaus of Damascus (fl. ca. 40-20 B.C.)*
(Universal History, fragment) 

(Today is the Ides of March - notionally, in the Roman lunar calendar, the day of the full moon that marked the midpoint of the month.**  It was on this date in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar was assassinated by a conspiracy headed by Marcus Junius Brutus and Quintus Cassius Longinus, who feared Caesar's growing power in the Roman Senate.  The most famous portrayal of the events of that infamous date 2,066 years ago is found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, based largely on Sir Thomas North's 1579 English translation of Plutarch's Lives and likely first presented at the Globe in the summer of 1599.  There, the Bard has Marc Antony saying - famously -
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interrèd with their bones. 
So let it be with Caesar..." ***) 

*  N.B.  Nikolaus of Damascus was a Greek historian who befriended Herod the Great and Augustus Caesar, Julius's nephew, heir, and later Roman emperor.  This excerpt from his fragmentary Universal History is believed to be the earliest account of Caesar's murder.
**  In the Julian calendar (reformed in 46 B.C.), the "ides" were the 15th days of March, May, July, and October - and the 13th days of all the other months.  From 222 until 154 B.C., the ides of March was the day on which the new consuls of the Roman Republic entered office.  The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the first through the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st) of the following month. The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.

Until 1955, U.S. federal income tax returns were due on 15 March, adding to the sinister connotations of that date. 

***   After the Roman people were aroused against the conspirators by Marc Antony, Brutus and Cassius fled to Syria and in 42 B.C. were defeated by Antony and Octavian at the battle of Phillipi.  This left the way open for Octavian to seize power and - as Caesar Augustus - become the first Roman emperor. 

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step:

Julius Caesar the Highly Condensed Version

Science! 2014 Wellcome Image Awards winners

Wellcome Images is a source for medical imagery, and, on an annual basis, awards "the most informative, striking and technically excellent images recently acquired", as chosen by a panel of judges.  A few favorites below:

Scanning electron micrograph of part of a thale cress flower, showing the male and female reproductive organs. The female part of the flower, the pistil (the blue feathery structure on an olive green stalk), is at the centre of the image and contains egg cells (ovules) housed in an ovary. It is surrounded by the male parts, the stamens, which have their anthers coloured light green and their filaments brown. Some of the anthers are open, revealing pollen grains ready for dispersal (the light green/yellow spherical structures, for example in the anther in the top-left of the image). The pollen grains contain the male sperm cells. After an egg cell is fertilised by a sperm cell it develops into a seed. The petals are coloured purple. 

Light micrograph of a stained slice of a lily flower bud showing the male and female reproductive organs. At the centre of the image is the pistil, the female part of the flower, which contains six egg cells (ovules) housed in an ovary. This is surrounded by six male anthers (the white material) each containing four pollen sacs (the red circles), which are filled with pollen grains. Pollen grains contain the male sperm cells. After an egg cell is fertilised by a sperm cell it develops into a seed. Around the outside of the bud are three petals (small, circular in shape) and three sepals (large, triangular in shape). The width of the image is 10 mm.

Scanning electron micrograph of waste (sludge) from an industrial farming process, after having been burned. In the foreground, silver oxide structures (coloured pink, purple and green) and structures rich in calcium carbonate (coloured brown) can be seen. The background (coloured blue) shows the surface of a zirconia crucible (a container that can withstand very high temperatures), which was used to hold the sample as it burned.

X-ray projection of a brown long-eared bat
X-ray projection of a brown long-eared bat hunted and killed by a domestic cat. The brown long-eared bat has relatively large ears and is common in the UK and across Europe. These bats are nocturnal, sleeping during the day in roosts, and hibernate from October/November to March/April. They tend to fly at low altitude close to vegetation where they hunt their prey - insects taken directly from leaves or the ground. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Frank Sinatra was offered the John McClane role in Die Hard before Bruce Willis

So, how did Frank come to be offered the role? It all started with an author named Roderick Thorp. You might not know it, but the Die Hard movie was based on a book called Nothing Lasts Forever by Thorp, which was published in 1979. The LA Times reviewed the book, saying it was “A ferocious, bloody, raging book so single-mindedly brilliant in concept and execution that it should be read at a single sitting.” This book is really what made Thorp a big name, but he was on the publishing scene much earlier.

It turns out that Nothing Lasts Forever is actually a sequel to a book called The Detective, published in 1966 which was made into a movie of the same name in 1968. The movie starred—you guessed it—Frank Sinatra as the main character, Detective Joe Leland. The book was extremely popular, remaining on bestseller lists for a while and making a name for Thorp; the movie also did well in the box office. It was described as “gritty” for its time, dealing with issues like homosexuality, but it was decidedly less action-packed than the Die Hard movies we know today.

Die Hard itself wasn’t picked up by producers until 1988, nearly 10 years after the book it was based on was published. Because the movie was technically a sequel, they were contractually obligated to offer Frank Sinatra the leading role. He was 73 years old at the time and gracefully turned the offer down.

After Sinatra turned the offer down, the role was offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the movie was pitched as a sequel to the actor’s 1985 film Commando rather than a sequel to The Detective. Schwarzenegger also turned down the offer, and instead Bruce Willis was cast in the leading role, with the character renamed John McClane instead of Joe Leland.

Willis was not exactly the kind of person the studio was hoping to cast in the role. At the time, he was mostly only known for comedies, not action movies. But they had been turned down by a variety of other actors since offering the role to Sinatra and Schwarzenegger, and they had to settle.

Friday links

Gallery of Bizarre Car Accidents.  Many more here.

How Merv Griffin Came Up With That Weird Question/Answer Format for Jeopardy!

Would You Eat Cheese Made from Pig Milk?

What Happens To Your Prosthetics After You Die?

“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.” Mostly weird, and some not so weird, medical treatments from the old days.

The Great Depression and Scrabble.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, including Chuck Norris's 74th birthday and a gallery of goats in sweaters.

Mostly weird, and some not so weird, medical treatments from the old days

So, are the old ways always the best?  Well, sometimes they make sense even if you can't prove it.  Then again, sometimes they don't.

Discover Magazine has an article on medical remedies in the old days, based on the book How to Cure the Plague. The author, Julian Walker, explores the science behind a wide range of history's cures. A couple are below - more at Discover. 

Herbal Cough Syrup:


Take a pot of barley, and seethe it in a gallon of well-water, and let it seethe until the barley be lost; then strain it and put thereto as much new wort as of the aforesaid licquor, and put therein a good quantity of sage, and as much hyssop, and a pennyworth of liquorice well bruised; then seethe it again until it be half consumed away; then strain it and put it into a glass, or into some other close vessel, and so let it stand the space of one whole day, and let the party grieved drink two or three spoonfuls of it at a time, both morning and evening, and this will help him in a short space. This hath been well proved.

A Rich Storehouse, or Treasurie for the Diseased, 1607


'Wort' is unfermented beer – the mix of grain and water, which would be soothing to drink; hyssop is a good expectorant, while sage has long been used against fevers. Liquorice’s soothing properties mean that it is still a common ingredient in cough medicines.

All-Purpose Pain Relief


[Wintergreen] boiled in wine and water and given to drink to them that have any inward ulcers in their kidneys or neck of the bladder, doth wonderfully help them; it stayeth also all fluxes, whether of blood or humours, [such] as the lask, bloody flux, women’s courses, and bleeding of the womb, and taketh away any inflammation rising upon pains of the heart.

The English Physitian, Nicholas Culpeper, 1652


Oil of wintergreen, now obtained by distillation of the leaves, contains methyl salicylate, similar to aspirin, which is a longstanding treatment for cardiovascular conditions including heart attacks, acting as an anti-inflammatory and blood thinner.

And from the always fascinating Ask The Past, several more cures but without any modern equivalents given:

How to Cure Head Congestion, 1596

"A Medicine for the stopping of the nose and head, which commeth by reason of colde. Take a good quantity of the iuice of Primrose, and blow it with a quill into the Patients nose, and let him keep himselfe warme after it, and it will cleare both his head and nose." 

A. T., A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased (1596)
Ambroise Paré, Opera chirurgica (1594)
Ambroise Paré, Opera chirurgica (1594)

How to Heal All Wounds, 1683

"A Drink that healeth all Wounds... Take Sanicle, Milfoil, and Bugle, of each a like quantity, stamp them in a Mortar, and temper them with Wine, and give the sick that is wounded to drink twice or thrice a day till he be whole: Bugle holdeth open the wound, Milfoil cleanseth the wound, Sanicle healeth it; but Sanicle may not be given to him that is hurt in the Head, or in the Brain-pan, for it is dangerous. This is a good and Tryed Medicine." 

Hannah Woolley, The Accomplish'd Ladies Delight (1683)
How to Cure a Headache, 9th century

"Headaches you will enchant: take some earth, touch your breast three times and say: My head hurts, why does it hurt? It does not hurt." 

Pseudo-Pliny (9th century)

How to Stop Bleeding, 1664

“To Stench a Bleeding Wound: Lay hogs Dung, hot from the Hog, to the Bleeding Wound.” 

Samuel Strangehopes, A Book of Knowledge in Three Parts (166[4])
Previous posts:
Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Compilation: Dogs Excited to See Their Owners

Video: Injured dolphin approaches diver for help, swims in place while tended to

During a night dive last January in Hawaii, a bottlenose dolphin caught in a fishing line approached scuba diver Keller Laros for help.

The dolphin’s left pectoral fin was stuck, wrapped around fishing line with a hook embedded into its body. Laros, who was equipped with scissors, was able to free his fellow mammal and the amazing rescue was caught on film by Martina Wing.


Damn - just got a notice from Amazon re Amazon Prime shipping going up to $99/yr

Dear ______________,

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on July 24, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

For more information about your Prime membership, visit our Prime membership page.


The Amazon Prime Team

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Game of Thrones: new trailer and an interview with the actors on who should end up on the iron throne

Vanity Fair has the cast of Game of Thrones on the cover of their April issue, and although the article doesn't seem to be available online (I haven't searched that hard, but I didn't see it), they do have a teaser page here with some gorgeous images and a video interview (below) asking the cast who should end up on the iron throne.

First, the new trailer:

The interview:

Previous posts:

Deleted And Extended Scenes From Game Of Thrones Season 3 (NSFW - language)

Game of Thrones has a special 15-minute preview of season 4, plus a new trailer.

The Game of Thrones Travel Guide.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Man dies from chewing on his fingernails. Jeez, Mom was right

A man died from a heart attack after biting his nails until they bled.

John Gardener’s habit had become so severe the infection turned sceptic and caused a fatal heart attack just days after his 40th birthday.

He was rushed to hospital but died two weeks later.

His fingernail biting was so extreme that doctors believe he became immune to the pain.

An inquest heard he been treated for anxiety and depression in the years leading up to his death as his nail-biting habit intensified. He also suffered ill health as a result of being diabetic.

John’s GP Dr Daniel Vernon described Mr Gardener’s fingernails as ‘in constant poor condition’, causing him to lose almost all feeling and sensation in them.

And his mother Jean Gardener, 60, claimed more could have been done to stop her son's tragic death.

Speaking from her home in Wigan, Lancashire, the mum-of-three said: “It was such a tragedy, we’re all in shock.

“It’s really hit our family hard, there could’ve been more done to help him.

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to anyone else’s son - it’s just devastating."

Doctors believe John’s condition was able to deteriorate after he became immune to the pain he would’ve been suffering.

Dr Vernon said: “John’s nails were always in poor condition and they were often bleeding when he came to the doctors.”

The coroner at the hearing in Bolton heard how John underwent surgery to remove the tip of his finger eight days after being admitted into hospital.

Before that, he was treated with intravenous antibiotics and was monitored by medical staff daily to see if his condition improved as he said that he didn’t want to lose his finger.

He showed signs of slow but gradual improvement and didn’t display any signs of high temperature or fevers, the inquest heard.

Consultant hand and orthopaedic surgeon Chye Ng said he was as shocked by his patient’s sudden death as the family were.

He added: “The passing of John Gardener was really upsetting and shocking for all of the team.”

The court was told how in 2011 he also underwent an operation to amputate his lower right leg after he contracted leg ulcers - a not uncommon problem among diabetics.

A spokesman from Wrightington Wigan and Leigh Hospital Trust said: “We would like to extend our sincere sympathies to the family and friends of John Gardener.

“We always strive to provide safe, effective and compassionate care to all patients.

“It is clear from the evidence given at the inquest that John received a high standard of treatment throughout the time he was under our care.”

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Alan Walsh said: “This is a death of great sadness to everybody - his death happened so suddenly.

“I believe John had a difficult life after being diagnosed with diabetes at just 10 months old and not only this, he had to come to terms with self-injecting himself twice a day.

“And then he had problems with leg ulcers and problems after surgery because of this.”

via Fark.

Epilogue from last night's The Simpsons tribute to Mrs Krabappel (voice artist Marcia Wallace died in October)

The Simpsons said a sad farewell to Bart's teacher Edna Krabappel on Sunday night; Mrs. Krabappel (more recently Mrs. Flanders, since she married Ned) was voiced by Marcia Wallace, who recently lost her battle with cancer.

In a brief scene at the very end, and before the closing credits, Mrs Krabappel and her husband, Ned Flanders, are dancing a passionate tango together and then we see him mourning at home, alone wearing a black armband. Even Nelson Muntz, an altogether unlikely source, remarks on how much he will miss her laugh.

I realize that it dates me, but I remember her very well as the receptionist on the Bob Newhart Show (wiki), and later on Hollywood Squares (wiki).

via Daily Mail.

Caesar kidnapped by pirates, nuking the moon, the real Moby Dick & more: 8 amazing history stories

History Stories[Source: Today I Found Out]

From the always interesting Today I Found Out (author of The Wise Book of Whys).  The original stories:

1. Christopher Columbus Tricked Native Jamaicans Into Giving Him Supplies by Using His Knowledge of an Upcoming Lunar Eclipse

Monday, March 10, 2014

8 Connections Among the Works of Joss Whedon

Buffy and Angel are obvious - the rest seem to be connected via interlocking and overlapping shadowy government agencies.  Makes sense, for the most part (except for Toy Story - that's kinda out there).

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Monday links

Gallery: Goats in sweaters.

Advice from 1380: How to Tell if Someone Is or Is Not Dead, with bonus Monty Python.

Exceptional British Scifi Artwork from the 1950s.

Unbelievably, Chuck Norris is 74 today. Here are his 5 most badass movies and a bunch of Norris "facts".

Check out the new gallery of celestial images released by NASA in relation to the Cosmos re-make.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, including Grimm fairy tales as told by Buffy and Angel, booger science and goat arousal experts.