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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Army doctor Walter Reed was born 163 years ago today. Here's some history.

Honor a physician with the honor due unto him for the uses which ye may have of him: for the Lord hath created him. For of the most High cometh healing, and ye shall receive honor of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head: and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. 

~Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus, 38:1-3 

Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create. 

~Fran├žois-Marie Arouet, called Voltaire (1697-1778) (Philosophical Dictionary, "Physicians") 

Today is the 163rd anniversary of the birth of U.S. Army doctor Walter Reed (wiki) (1851- 1902), who led the team that proved that yellow fever is transmitted by the bite of certain species of mosquito. Born in Belroi, Virginia, Reed took his M.D. degree from the University of Virginia at only 19 and a year later got a second M.D. at New York University. He joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps in 1875 and served at a series of posts in the American West* before additional study in bacteriology led to his teaching at George Washington University and the Army Medical College in Washington. Reed went to Cuba after the Spanish-American War to study tropical diseases, notably yellow fever, in U.S. troops there. Acting on a suggestion of Dr. Carlos Finlay, Reed organized a research program that deliberately infected human volunteers with the disease to show that mosquitos were the key vector, and not direct contact with victims or their body fluids. This discovery made possible the near eradication of yellow fever in Central America and was a key factor in facilitating the building of the Panama Canal. Dr. Reed's own life was tragically cut short by a ruptured appendix in 1902, and the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington was named in his honor. The Greek "father of medicine," Hippocrates (ca. 460 - ca. 370 B.C.), stated as his first aphorism, 

"Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgment difficult."**

* N.B. Among Reed's patients during this period was the Apache chief Geronimo. 

** The first two phrases are often quoted as, "Ars longa, vita brevis." 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday links

Stone Wall Mosaics Flow in Beautiful Spirals and Waves.

‘Moon Rabbit’, A Giant Paper Rabbit Sculpture in Taiwan.

200 years ago this weekend: the battle of Baltimore, inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner.

Gorgeous Scientific Diagrams circa 1850.

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Naked Mole Rat Could One Day Save Your Life.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, including Tiffany-decorated handguns from 1890, footage from an early Who Framed Roger Rabbit attempt, competitive rock paper scissors, and photos from before wires/cables were buried and thousands of them stretched across the sky.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Holy crap most awkward album covers ever

More here at Sad and Useless.  These are reminiscent of the women throwing themselves at accordion players in this set:

And this set at Dark Roasted Blend, which has a theme of music for particular situations:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Scientists name newly discovered extinct swamp-dwelling creature after Mick Jagger because big lips

A swamp-dwelling, plant-munching creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa has been named after Rolling Stones lead singer Sir Mick Jagger, because of its big, sensitive lips and snout. The name of the animal, Jaggermeryx naida, translates to 'Jagger's water nymph.'
Top and side views of a fossilized jaw
bone of an ancient creature recently
 named after Mick Jagger, in honor of the
 animal's big, sensitive lips and snout.
Sir Mick Jagger has a new animal named after him. Scientists have named an extinct swamp-dwelling creature that lived 19 million years ago in Africa after the Rolling Stones frontman, in honor of a trait they both share -- their supersized lips.

"We gave it the scientific name Jaggermeryx naida, which translates to 'Jagger's water nymph,'" said study co-author Ellen Miller of Wake Forest University. The animal's fossilized jaw bones suggest it was roughly the size of a small deer and akin to a cross between a slender hippo and a long-legged pig.

Researchers uncovered the fossils -- consisting of multiple jawbone fragments -- amid the sand dunes and eroded rock of a remote site in the Egyptian desert.

The creature belonged to a family of extinct hoofed animals called anthracotheres. Jaggermeryx is one of six species of anthracotheres found at the site. What distinguished it from other members of this family was a series of tiny holes on either side of its jaw that held the nerves providing sensation to the chin and lower lip.

"The animal probably had a highly innervated muzzle with mobile and tactile lips, thus the Jagger reference," said Duke University paleontologist and study co-author Gregg Gunnell.

More at Science Daily.

Wednesday links

Feel-good story of the year is from an Ironman Triathlon: "Steen swam 2.4 miles while pulling Peder on a rubber raft, biked 112 miles with his brother seated in front of him, and ran 26.2 miles while pushing Peder in a wheelchair across hilly terrain."

Emerson’s Letter of Appreciation to Young Walt Whitman.

Photos from the late 19th century of thousands of cables crowding the skies.

Footage From Unmade Early ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Movie Starring Paul (Pee Wee Herman) Reubens.

Handguns decorated by Tiffany circa 1890.

The World of Competitive Rock Paper Scissors.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include health benefits of alcohol, video of Disney princes in real life, and what if one person had all of the world's money?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Read this -> Author Ridley Pearson's article on how he spends his days lying to his senile 93 yo mother

I've copied the article here from Google's cache because the page keeps crashing. Here's the original link.

I'm familiar with Pearson largely as a result of the Peter and the Starcatcher series which he co-wrote with Dave Barry - lots more of his stuff is available here.

Rite of passage: A born liar

How do I learn how to lie to the woman who taught me not to?

My mother turns 93 today and is in advanced senility, a condition that prompted us to move her from her country home near Sun Valley, Idaho, to an assisted living facility only miles from our home in St. Louis.

Each morning I visit her in Sunrise Senior Living. I write my books while she reads (usually she reads the same passage from the same book; two weeks ago she was reading the book upside down and backward and said she wasn’t enjoying the story), an amicable working relationship. She can be close to her youngest son; I get to be with my aging mother. I’m able to accomplish 60 percent of what I could in my home office, but it’s better than nothing.

In the early afternoon I bring her to the house for a change of scenery and, for the most part, she naps with the book in her lap. (One of my thrillers; I try to not take it personally.) When she wakes up, she nearly always follows the same routine.

“Where am I?”

“St. Louis. In my home.”

“Where’s my dog?”

“Safe with a housekeeper.” In fact the dog was given away to a wonderful friend the day we left for St. Louis.

“I need a plane ticket for tomorrow. I have to go back home!”

“OK. I’ll book it.” I won’t book it. I will tell her the same thing tomorrow and the next day. And the next.

“Is my house still there?”

“Yes. It’s being looked after by a caretaker.” In fact, it is still there, but my siblings and I sold it last week, raising enough money to keep her here for years if necessary. It had grown too expensive to have private care in her private home.

So there is no home for her to return to. No dog. Her clothes are in boxes in my basement. And here I am lying my way through a complicated scenario that makes me appreciate being a novelist because I’m okay at inventing and telling stories. But lying to my mother? There’s the rub.

This woman worked with my brother and my sister before me to raise us to be upstanding kids (as far as suburban New York kids go; not that far!). I am an Eagle Scout. I help old ladies across the street. But I lie to my own mother. Each day, every day. It turns my stomach. It costs me sleep. These aren’t “harmless” lies — this is outright deception, playing tricks on the elderly. MY OWN MOTHER!

I don’t sleep well. I can’t focus. She’s always within arm’s length. If I leave her alone at the facility for more than three hours she goes ballistic and calls me crying and begging to “go home.” I tell her it’ll be okay — it won’t. I tell her, I’ll be right down. I zoom to the facility (they are angels there, thankfully) and there’s a caregiver consoling her. I thank the person and I take over.

She tells me she has to go home tomorrow.

I tell her I’ll arrange it. I won’t.

I tuck her into bed.

Turn off the light.

I trudge back to my car carrying the world on my shoulders.

She’s spending this first month “adjusting.”

I’m spending this first month learning to lie.

The sad thing is: I’m getting good at it.

Ridley Pearson, a nationally best-selling author, lives in Town and Country. His most recent novel is “The Red Room,” published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Feel-good story of the year: Wheelchair-Bound Man Completes Ironman Triathlon With Twin Brother

Holy crap: 
Using special equipment, Steen swam 2.4 miles while pulling Peder on a rubber raft, biked 112 miles with his brother seated in front of him, and ran 26.2 miles while pushing Peder in a wheelchair across hilly terrain.
Last Sunday, 34-year-old Peder Mondrup became the first person with cerebral palsy to complete an Ironman triathlon, thanks to his own determination and the tremendous love and support of his twin brother, Steen. 

Using special equipment, Steen swam 2.4 miles while pulling Peder on a rubber raft, biked 112 miles with his brother seated in front of him, and ran 26.2 miles while pushing Peder in a wheelchair across hilly terrain. It took the incredible duo 15 hours, 32 minutes, and 48 seconds to complete the grueling KMD Ironman Copenhagen Challenge, but they finally crossed the finish line together amidst the bright lights and loud cheers of spectators close to midnight on August 24.

The twins, who call themselves Team Tvilling ("Team Twin" in Danish), were born three months premature and weighing only 2.6 pounds each in 1980. Peder, who suffered a lack of oxygen that caused severe cerebral palsy, has been confined to a wheelchair for all of his life. This physical handicap hasn't held him back, however, as he's participated in a variety of marathons and races with Steen, with those efforts finally culminating in the spectacular completion of the extremely demanding Ironman.

"For the first time, I felt like the person I see myself as: a regular participant instead of 'somebody in a wheelchair,'" said Peder. His brother shared, "If I can give Peder the feeling of not sitting in a wheelchair for a few hours, then I will do whatever it takes! I feel like I am really lucky because he has caused me to see the positive in life and to not complain about everyday things. One thing is certain and that is that you never have and never will hear Peder feel sorry for himself."

The twins, who joke that Steen got "the legs" and Peder got "the brains," hope to pursue their dream of giving handicapped people the chance to feel the joy and pride of participating in races and other sports events. With their Ironman accomplishment only serving as the beginning of their journey, they have established the non-profit Team Twin Association, with the goal of establishing the world’s first triathlon training camps for the disabled in 2015. "We are really excited about this next step for Team Twin," they said. "The work has already begun and will now get our full attention."

See the whole thing, with lots more photos, at My Modern Met.

See Footage From Unmade Early ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ Movie Starring Paul (Pee Wee Herman) Reubens

Walt Disney Productions purchased the film rights to Gary K. Wolf‘s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? shortly after the book’s publication in 1981, and Disney spent many years trying to bring Who Framed Roger Rabbit to the screen.

In the early ‘80s Disney developed some test footage of Roger Rabbit, casting a pre-Pee-Wee Paul Reubens as the voice of the titular Rabbit and making Jessica Rabbit less of a sexpot and more of a cutting bitch.

More via AV Club and /Film.

Video: The Scientific Processes Behind Brewing Beer

Joe Hanson of It’s Okay To Be Smart explores the scientific processes behind brewing beer in this video. I always enjoy these videos, and this one is interesting as well, in spite of the fact that it feels a bit more like a commercial for the brewery than a science lesson.

I did learn that cenosillicaphobia is the word for fear of an empty glass.

Monday links

Cool: Jack the Ripper identified via DNA from a shawl found at Ripper murder scene.

First Graders Of 1988 Make Predictions About The Year 2000.

The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking Is Healthy: The U.S. public health establishment buries overwhelming evidence that abstinence is a cause of heart disease and early death? Related: Wine and Exercise: A Promising Combination.

Video: If Disney Princes Were Real, you wouldn't want anything to do with them. 

From What If, what would happen if one person had all of the world's money?

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, including weird medieval books, a rocket-powered motorcycle from the early 20th century, IBM's strange 1937 corporate songbook, and adventures in early dentistry.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Superheroes photoshopped into Hello Kitty themed costumes

Surprising the difference a whole bunch of pink can make.

More here.

Video: If Disney Princes Were Real (they're obnoxious and really not very bright)

My favorite is Aladdin, near the end.

via Neatorama.

Cool: Jack the Ripper identified via DNA from a shawl found at Ripper murder scene

Daily Mail has an article written by Russell Edwards, who bought the shawl and had it tested, and a separate one by Dr Jari Louhelainen, the DNA expert who did the testing. Their research shows that Jack the Ripper was Aaron Kosminski (wiki) a Russian Jewish hairdresser who was one of the main suspects at the time. Although there was insufficient evidence to arrest him, the police kept him under surveillance until he ended up in asylums for the rest of his life. More on Kosminski here and here, and at Wikipedia.

Edwards has written a book entitled Naming Jack the Ripper, which will be released Tuesday, September 9th - here's the Amazon blurb:
After 125 years of theorizing and speculation regarding the identity of Jack the Ripper, Russell Edwards is in the unique position of owning the first physical evidence relating to the crimes to have emerged since 1888. This evidence is from one of the crime scenes, and has now been rigorously examined by some of the most highly-qualified forensic scientists in the country who have ascertained its true provenance. With the help of modern forensic techniques, Russell's ground-breaking discoveries provide conclusive answers to many of the most challenging mysterious surrounding the case.
Here's part of the the intro from the article:

It is the greatest murder mystery of all time, a puzzle that has perplexed criminologists for more than a century and spawned books, films and myriad theories ranging from the plausible to the utterly bizarre.

A DNA sample has proven Polish immigrant
Aaron Kosminski was Jack the Ripper
A shawl found by the body of Catherine Eddowes, one of Jack the Ripper’s (wiki) victims, has been analysed and found to contain DNA from her blood as well as DNA from the killer.

The landmark discovery was made after businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl at auction and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.

Here's Edwards:
It was March 2007, in an auction house in Bury St Edmunds, that I first saw the blood-soaked shawl. It was in two surprisingly large sections – the first measuring 73.5in by 25.5in, the second 24in by 19in – and, despite its stains, far prettier than any artefact connected to Jack the Ripper might be expected to be. It was mostly blue and dark brown, with a delicate pattern of Michaelmas daisies – red, ochre and gold – at either end.
It was said to have been found next to the body of one of the Ripper’s victims, Catherine Eddowes, and soaked in her blood. There was no evidence for its provenance, although after the auction I obtained a letter from its previous owner who claimed his ancestor had been a police officer present at the murder scene and had taken it from there.
Yet I knew I wanted to buy the shawl and was prepared to pay a great deal of money for it. I hoped somehow to prove that it was genuine. Beyond that, I hadn’t considered the possibilities. I certainly had no idea that this flimsy, badly stained, and incomplete piece of material would lead to the solution to the most famous murder mystery of all time: the identification of Jack the Ripper.
He ends up buying it and taking it to Dr. Jari Louhelainen, a leading expert in genetic evidence from historical crime scenes.

The tests began in 2011, when Jari used special photographic analysis to establish what the stains were.
Using an infrared camera, he was able to tell me the dark stains were not just blood, but consistent with arterial blood spatter caused by slashing – exactly the grim death Catherine Eddowes had met.
But the next revelation was the most heart-stopping. Under UV photography, a set of fluorescent stains showed up which Jari said had the characteristics of semen.
Here's Dr. Louhelainen, after explaining the extraction techniques he used:
Once I had the profile, I could compare it to that of the female descendant of Kosminski’s sister, who had given us a sample of her DNA swabbed from inside her mouth.

The first strand of DNA showed a 99.2 per cent match, as the analysis instrument could not determine the sequence of the missing 0.8 per cent fragment of DNA. On testing the second strand, we achieved a perfect 100 per cent match.
Documentary on Re-investigating the Evidence and Suspects:

Read the whole thing at Daily Mail.