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Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday links

Tax day quotes, songs, links and advice, filing an extension, Dave Barry, and the 1967 cartoon version of The Beatles "Taxman".

Short History of Congress’s Power to Tax and eleven shelters, dodges, and rolls - all perfectly legal - used by America's wealthiest people.

It's Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday - here's his handwritten resume from 1482.

What's Inside a Yo-Yo That Keeps It Spinning?

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include the Kansas farm that's the default location for 600 million IP addresses, science behind why you shouldn’t pop your pimples, lots of information about Abraham Lincoln's assassination on April 13, 1865, and an eyewitness account of the sinking of the Titanic.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Blogging will be light for a few days while I welcome ANOTHER new granddaughter to the world ;-)

Today we're welcoming Miss Charlotte Mae Witt, fourth child and second daughter to my older son Charlie and his wife Mai Lea. Charlotte was born at 1:40 this afternoon, weighs 7 pounds and 9 ounces, and is 21 inches long. She has a good amount of light brown hair plus all of the appropriate body parts, in the appropriate amounts.

The most recent addition to the family prior to today was Charlotte's cousin Addie, born February 4, 2016.

It is not a slight thing when those so fresh from God love us.

~ Dickens

Infant Sorrow by William Blake

My mother groand! my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.

Song To Be Sung by the Father of Infant Female Children

by Ogden Nash

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;
Contrariwise, my blood runs cold
When little boys go by.
For little boys as little boys,
No special hate I carry,
But now and then they grow to men,
And when they do, they marry.
No matter how they tarry,
Eventually they marry.
And, swine among the pearls,
They marry little girls.

Oh, somewhere, somewhere, an infant plays,
With parents who feed and clothe him.
Their lips are sticky with pride and praise,
But I have begun to loathe him.
Yes, I loathe with loathing shameless
This child who to me is nameless.
This bachelor child in his carriage
Gives never a thought to marriage,
But a person can hardly say knife
Before he will hunt him a wife.

I never see an infant (male),
A-sleeping in the sun,
Without I turn a trifle pale
And think is he the one?
Oh, first he'll want to crop his curls,
And then he'll want a pony,
And then he'll think of pretty girls,
And holy matrimony.
A cat without a mouse
Is he without a spouse.

Oh, somewhere he bubbles bubbles of milk,
And quietly sucks his thumbs.
His cheeks are roses painted on silk,
And his teeth are tucked in his gums.
But alas the teeth will begin to grow,
And the bubbles will cease to bubble;
Given a score of years or so,
The roses will turn to stubble.
He'll sell a bond, or he'll write a book,
And his eyes will get that acquisitive look,
And raging and ravenous for the kill,
He'll boldly ask for the hand of Jill.
This infant whose middle
Is diapered still
Will want to marry My daughter Jill.

Oh sweet be his slumber and moist his middle!
My dreams, I fear, are infanticiddle.
A fig for embryo Lohengrins!
I'll open all his safety pins,
I'll pepper his powder, and salt his bottle,
And give him readings from Aristotle.
Sand for his spinach I'll gladly bring,
And Tabasco sauce for his teething ring.
And an elegant, elegant, alligator
To play with him in his perambulator.
Then perhaps he'll struggle through fire and water
To marry somebody else's daughter.

A loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other. 

~ Ronald Knox (attributed)

It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last. 

~ Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, Ch. 36

Thursday links

Digital hell: this Kansas farm is the default location for 600 million IP addresses.

Elderly men in South Korea have allegedly been given erectile dysfunction drugs to buy their votes in legislative elections.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on this date in 1865.

The Titanic sunk on this day in 1912 - here's an eyewitness account.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, people whose names that break computers, how to  judge an animal from its snout, McDonalds Monopoly fraud (from 1995 to 2001, there was only one real winner - Uncle Jerry), and fixing clogged arteries with powdered booze.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter

The first shots of the American Civil War (wiki) were fired on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter: 

Bombardment of Fort Sumter by Currier & Ives
South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860 - at that time, United States Major Robert Anderson and his force of 85 soldiers were positioned at Fort Moultrie near the mouth of Charleston Harbor. On December 26, fearing for the safety of his men, Anderson moved his command to Fort Sumter (wiki) in the middle of the harbor. 

On Thursday, April 11, 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard dispatched aides to Maj. Anderson to demand the fort’s surrender. Anderson refused. The next morning, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter and continued for 34 hours. 

The firing continued all day, although much less rapidly since the Union aimed to conserve ammunition. "The crashing of the shot, the bursting of the shells, the falling of the walls, and the roar of the flames, made a pandemonium of the fort," wrote Union Capt. Abner Doubleday, the fort's second in command. 

On Saturday, April 13, Anderson surrendered the fort. The generous terms of surrender allowed Anderson to perform a 100-gun salute before he and his men evacuated the fort the next day; although no soldiers had been killed in the battle, an accidental explosion during the salute killed one of the gunners and mortally wounded another. 

Carrying their tattered banner, the men marched out of the fort and boarded a boat that ferried them to the Union ships outside the harbor. They were greeted as heroes on their return to the North.

Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (wiki) issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

The Civil War Trust's Fort Sumter Animated Map depicts the events that lead to the first shots of the Civil War as well as other important battles in Charleston Harbor.:

Here's an animated map showing the daily changes to the front over the course of the war:


Maroon = Confederate States of America and territories
Red = Areas occupied by Confederate forces
Pink = Gains for that Day
Dark Blue = United States of America and territories
Blue = Areas occupied by Union forces.
Light blue = Gains for that day
Yellow = Border states / disputed areas.

Related posts:

It's Stonewall Jackson's birthday - here's the story of his left arm's separate grave.

The Gettysburg Address was seven score and eleven years ago.

Gorgeous remastered and colorized images from the Civil War era, including Lincoln and Mark Twain

There's lots more on Fort Sumter at and the Smithsonian.

Tuesday links

The first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861 at Fort Sumter

These unlucky people have names that break computers

I keep hearing ads on the radio for this: The McDonalds Monopoly Fraud: from 1995 to 2001, there was only one real winner - Uncle Jerry.

Get the Nobel Prize ready: Powdered Booze Could Fix Your Clogged Arteries.

You can judge a lot about an animal from its snout.

Man hacked random-number generator to rig state lotteries.

ICYMI, Monday's links are here, and include wasps building rainbow colored nests, the peculiar history of life insurance, a Women are teachable 1940's booklet to “assist male bosses in supervising their new female employees" and a 1967 booklet on how to get a man, and advice from 1658 on giving up wine (spoiler - there are decomposing eels involved). 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Digital hell: this Kansas farm is the default location for 600 million IP addresses

Kashmir Hill at has a related story - a rather impressive piece of investigation that the bigger news outlets never seem to undertake any more. Extensive excerpts below, but read the whole thing:

Eighty-two year old Joyce Taylor of Potwin, Kansas and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. 

They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat.

The trouble for the Taylor farm started in 2002, when a Massachusetts-based digital mapping company called MaxMind decided it wanted to provide “IP intelligence” to companies who wanted to know the geographic location of a computer to, for example, show the person using it relevant ads or to send the person a warning letter if they were pirating music or movies. But here's the problem:
... IP mapping isn’t an exact science. At its most precise, an IP address can be mapped to a house. (You can try to map your own IP address here.) At its least precise, it can be mapped only to a country. In order to deal with that imprecision, MaxMind decided to set default locations at the city, state and country level for when it knows only roughly where the IP address lives. If it knows only that an IP address is somewhere in the U.S., and can’t figure out anything more about where it is, it will point to the center of the country.
For the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000.
Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.

Taylor's house isn't the only spot with such problems - Mr. Hill examined MaxMind's database of IP addresses, and although the 600 million at was the worst, there were several other similar spots, including one near me, in Ashburn, VA:
Tony Pav lives in a house at the end of a cul-de-sac in Ashburn, Virginia. Among other things, Ashburn is home to a number of large data centers—the giant buildings that companies like Google and Facebook use to store their huge clusters of servers. As a result of all of these data centers, there are a gigantic number of IP addresses associated with Ashburn—more than 17 million in all.
And due to the way MaxMind selected its default locations, all 17 million of these IP addresses appeared to be located in Pav’s home.
Pav first started experiencing problems four years ago. In 2012, he came home late one night to find the police about to break down his door. They said they were looking for a stolen government laptop with personal information on it. He let them in to search; it wasn’t there, even though its IP address was pointing right at his house.

“They tore up my house looking for it, and found nothing,” he said.

One important lesson here is that IP addresses, which get used as digital evidence in criminal trials and to secure search warrants, are not always reliable. IP addresses were meant to allow computers to talk to each other, but have been repurposed to reveal details about the person behind that computer. The words “security” and “address” in their titles promise more than they can deliver.

Now that MaxMind is aware of the consequences of the default locations it’s chosen, Mather says they’re going to change them. They are picking new default locations for the U.S. and Ashburn, Virginia that are in the middle of bodies of water, rather than people’s homes.

Read the whole thing at

Monday links

When Given Colored Construction Paper, Wasps Build Rainbow Colored Nests.

Goat Rituals and Tree-Trunk Gravestones: The Peculiar History of Life Insurance. Related: How Maritime Insurance Built Ancient Rome.

Advice from 1658: How to Give Up Wine.

How To Dress For Success And To Get A Man: A 1967 Guide. Related, "Women are teachable": 1940's booklet to “assist male bosses in supervising their new female employees"

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include the tax implications of the zombie apocalypse, a gallery of vintage mechanical calculators, the British plan for a chicken-heated nuclear bomb. a giant flesh-eating koala , and why UPS trucks don't turn left.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

2Cellos Mashup: Beethoven’s 5th and Led Zeppelin' “Whole Lotta Love”

2CELLOS (wiki) is a Croatian cello duo, consisting of classically trained Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser. They rose to fame after their January 2011 cover of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal became a hit on YouTube, receiving over 3 million views in the first two weeks and over 18 million views as of March 2016. Their 2014 version of Thunderstruck has over 57 million views.

Before they became partners, the two cellists were sometimes considered rivals, competing against each other in music contests.

This mashup blends Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with Whole Lotta Love from Led Zeppelin. By the time they're finished, it’s four cellos. 

Get the Nobel Prize ready: Powdered Booze Could Fix Your Clogged Arteries

Scientists have discovered that a compound already approved by the FDA can dissolve away fats and cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels more effectively than existing treatments. The researchers published their study today in Science Translational Medicine.

The compound is called beta-cyclodextrin, and it’s already used in some pharmaceuticals to bind the active drug to fatty acids in the body where it is most needed.

Now, here's the good news: beta-cyclodextrin is also the main ingredient used to make powdered alcohol.
The researchers suspected that the same compound delivered into the blood stream could bind to those plaques around the blood vessels.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers fed mice a cholesterol-heavy diet for 12 weeks, which they knew would lead to a buildup of fatty plaques in their blood vessels. After eight weeks, they started injecting the mice with cyclodextrin twice per week. Over the remaining four weeks, the researchers found that the compound reduced the plaques by 46 percent without affecting the mice’s overall cholesterol level. 
More at Popular Science

When Given Colored Construction Paper, Wasps Build Rainbow Colored Nests

Biology student Mattia Menchetti gave colored construction paper to a colony of European paper wasps. By gradually providing different paper shades, the wasps turned their homes into a functional rainbow of different colors. 

He started by feeding his captive wasps yellow paper, and then gradually began introducing more shades. The insects soon created a technicolor home for their larvae. In addition to making for some unusual eye candy, the nest is sturdy as well. A protein in the saliva of European paper wasps is so effective in making their nests waterproof that it's been used by scientists for a biodegradable drone.
You can see more of Menchetti’s experiment on his website.

Kind of related: 

Predicting weather with bug sex

How wasps helped give us wine.