Linkfeast, September 13, 2008

Some recent interesting finds:

  • Self-Styled Siren writes about a ballet movie (from a Hans Christian Andersen story) that I haven't seen in a while, but that we probably should watch, The Red Shoes.

Link Fest - April 26, 2008

This evening's choir concert, I think, went well.  I was nervous at first since I couldn't make last week's rehearsal, but I really enjoyed it!  I'm quite hooked on choir at this point. [Older son, you can stop grinning now!][He predicted this would happen.]

I'm also quite tired so here are some more recent interesting links:

...The U.S. economy wastes 55 percent of the energy it consumes, and while American companies have ruthlessly wrung out other forms of inefficiency, that figure hasn’t changed much in recent decades. The amount lost by electric utilities alone could power all of Japan.

A 2005 report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that U.S. industry could profitably recycle enough waste energy—including steam, furnace gases, heat, and pressure—to reduce the country’s fossil-fuel use (and greenhouse-gas emissions) by nearly a fifth. A 2007 study by the Mc­Kinsey Global Institute sounded largely the same note; it concluded that domestic industry could use 19 percent less energy than it does today—and make more money as a result...

  • 30 Celebrities Who Didn't Get the Part, including:
    • John Cleese - Was considered for the role of Willy Wonka but he too lost out to Johnny Depp.
    • Johnny Depp - Lost the role of Johnny Blaze in “Ghost Rider” to Nicolas Cage, the role of Mr.Smith to Brad Pitt, and the role of Jack in “Titanic.”
    • Harrison Ford - Lost the part of Sam Bowden in Cape Fear to Nick Nolte. Ford was also considered for the role of Sam in “Ghost” and Tom Hanks’ Academy Award nominated role in “Saving Private Ryan.”
    • Keanu Reeves - Turned down for the role of Charlie Babbit in “Rain Man,” Wolverine in “X-Men,” and Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings.”

Now, some colleges are crossing the final threshold, allowing men and women to share rooms. At the urging of student activists, more than 30 campuses across the country have adopted what colleges call gender-neutral rooming assignments, almost half of them within the past two years.

Once limited to such socially liberal bastions as Hampshire College, Wesleyan University, and Oberlin College, mixed-gender housing has edged into the mainstream, although only a small fraction of students have taken advantage of the new policies so far...

When we reported last week that Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nick Stoller and writer/star Jason Segel had signed on to develop the next Muppet movie, I speculated that these would be the guys to get it right (”The early Muppet films were absolutely genius, but the last few failed due to an attempt to dumb down the plot/jokes to appeal to young viewers”). Segel spoke with MTV, and his views seemed to mirror my early thoughts.

“I’ve just grown a little disappointed with ‘Muppets in the Old West,’ ‘Muppets Under Water,’ and all these weird concept movies. I just want to go take it back to the early 80’s, when it was about the Muppets trying to put on a show. That’s what I’m trying to bring back,” said Segel, who also wants to bring back the big name cameos of the earlier films...“I remember thinking that Kermit was the original Tom Hanks - he was the everyman for a kid. I remember watching Kermit and thinking ‘That’s what I want to do when I grow up.’ I don’t think I realized he was a puppet...”

I approve!

  • In everything that I've read about Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, I haven't read about how the changes upstream contributed to New Orleans' problems.  From Who should pay to protect New Orleans:

...These costs are a federal responsibility because benefits to the entire nation, including massive engineering projects built in, and providing direct benefit to, states as far away as North Dakota, have in the last 60 years transformed New Orleans from a city reasonably safe from hurricanes to one dangerously vulnerable to them. These projects have had an effect as great as sending saboteurs from 1,500 miles away to dynamite Louisiana's levees.

That analogy may sound like an overstatement, but it may be an understatement. To understand the link between the High Plains and Louisiana, one has to understand the Mississippi River system -- which stretches from New York to Idaho and drains 31 states -- and the sediment load the system carries. This sediment load was so great that it changed the nation's geography. Sixty million years ago, the ocean reached north to Cape Girardeau, Mo., but as the sea level fell, the river dropped enough mud into what geologists call the Mississippi Embayment to create all the land from Cape Girardeau to the sea, a total of 35,000 square miles in seven states.

That land-building process created Louisiana's coast, along with barrier islands that provided a buffer protecting populated areas in Louisiana and part of Mississippi's coast.

Human engineering has reversed that process, causing the loss of roughly 2,000 square miles of land since World War II. If this buffer -- equivalent to the state of Delaware -- had not been destroyed, New Orleans would need little other hurricane protection.

Numerous man-made actions have caused the land loss, but the most important, yet least recognized, may be the decline of sediment in the river. Dams built to provide electricity, irrigation and flood protection in the Upper Midwest and High Plains are largely responsible for the decline; sediment level is now only 30% to 40% of the natural amount. A particular problem has been a series of dams on the upper Missouri River beginning above Bismarck, N.D., and ending above Yankton, S.D. Historically, roughly half of the total sediment load in the Mississippi River came from the upper Missouri, but the dams trapped that sediment upstream. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since the dams' construction in the 1950s, "the discharge of sediment from the upper Missouri River basin virtually was stopped."

Without this sediment, Louisiana began losing land...

Read the rest here.

Dinosaur Saliva

[If you don't want to read about dinosaur digestion, I'll have a spring flowers post tomorrow.]

Jurassicpark_2In my Sex and Violence post, while discussing Jurassic Park (right), I mentioned the wet inside of a Tyrannosaurus' mouth.  Today, at dinner, I started wondering if that is the case.  Do all creatures have saliva?  Tyrannosaurs had teeth but not for chewing.  How did their digestion work?

Hmm...., in a comparison of birds and dinosaurs, says:

Both birds and dinosaurs are designed to ingest food in relatively large pieces that are processed internally.  Mechanical reduction in the mouth (chewing) is very rare in birds. The best examples occur in cuckoos, hoatzins, and turacos. The teeth of dinosaurs suggest that chewing was limited to a few groups of plant-eaters. Both dinosaurs and birds ingest rocks or grit to assist with mechanical reduction. The saliva of birds lacks digestive enzymes and chemical reduction (digestion) is wholly internal. The properties of dinosaur saliva are unknown.

If this is correct, then my post probably was fine.  It's not all that easy to find information on Tyrannosaur digestion.  Most webpages have more about the digestive systems of herbivorous dinosaurs, but they focus on the food gathering habits of the carnivores, usually with words like "rending" and "slashing."

California Wild Fall is very helpful with Tyrannosaur digestion:

Erickson was pleased to see that the coprolite corroborated his previous ideas that the shearing teeth of tyrannosaurs pulverized bone as they bit down on huge hunks of meat. Though the coprolite reveals that much bone passed through the guts undigested, other rounded pieces were partly dissolved by strong stomach acids, so the predator may have obtained nutrients from the prey's skeleton. "It tells you about the physiology of these animals," says Erickson. "They could digest bone to some degree." Chin, though, remains impressed by how little bone digestion occurred, compared with how much crocodile dissolve swallowed bones.

By the way, if you google "Dinosaur spit,"  one of the most common results, mentioned while discussing the water cycle, goes something like this: could be drinking what was once dinosaur spit.

Googling "dinosaur saliva" was more useful.

Another "dinosaur spit" result was from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, which mentioned Jurassic Park

For movie buffs it might be interesting to note that a highly stylized dilophosaur appeared in Jurassic Park as the frilled, poison spitting dinosaur that attacked Nedry, the devious computer hack, at the bottom of the waterfall. The movie version is rather misleading, however.  Real dilophosaurs were larger than depicted in the movie, and show no sign of having possessed a colorful, expandable fold of skin along the neck as does the cinematic dilophosaur.  Also, there is no evidence that they could spit poison.

Also, human saliva is 98% water so it really shouldn't seem all that gross.  However, that knowledge doesn't change the way I feel.

For some strange reason, no one else wanted to discuss my question at dinner.

(Aren't you glad you don't have to dine with me?!)


Link Feast - April 19, 2008

I haven't done a link feast in a while.

  • You can get mesmerized playing with the stringwave.
  • When we're hiking, I love finding traces of old, overgrown roads.  BLDBLOG has an interesting post on Ancient Roads.

...The article refers to one local, a lawyer, who explains that "he loved getting out and looking for hints of ancient roads: parallel stone walls or rows of old-growth trees about 50 feet apart. Old culverts are clues, too, as are cellar holes that suggest people lived there; if so, a road probably passed nearby."
Think of it as landscape hermeneutics: hunting down traces of a disappeared landscape...

...if we bumped male requirements up to something as specific as the requirements for women, the US film and TV industry would lose all its leading men overnight (just “underweight” wipes out the whole brigade, though I’m sure some of them would be willing to starve if their careers were on the line). And wouldn’t that be a pity for all those women, including me, who find quite a few American lead actors attractive despite their “flaws”? Or because of them? 

...This week will undoubtedly witness a great deal of back and forth and back again about Heston's politics, given that most people last saw him not in character but at the podium of NRA rallies. But during his career Heston was an actor who approached each role with deep seriousness, repeatedly returning to the stage in between films until the lines would no longer stay in his memory...

  • In a post about dating tall women at Megan McArdle's Blog, one commenter says (emphasis mine):

...assuming there is any talking to be done, act like size doesn't matter much... what would you do differently if she was only 5'? There are logistics differences in sweeping women off their feet, but making her the only important being in the room covers most of them, IMHO.

Good advice.

If You've Ever Wondered About Lightning and Marine Animals

At Deep Sea NewsDoes Lightning Kill Marine Animals?:

...So even though lightning likes land, parts of the ocean receive frequent jolts. 

What happens to the charge once the lightning makes contact with water? According to Don MacGorman, a physicist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.

"Basically lightning stays more on the surface of the water rather than penetrating it. That's because water is a reasonably good conductor, and a good conductor keeps most of the current on the surface."

So if I understand this correctly the surface is acting bit like the Gaussian surface of a Faraday cage. How far this charge carries across the surface likely depends on surface topography of the water, total power of the lightning, temperature, salinity, etc. Thus to the original question: what about the animals? If of course this is all true, and I know someone is out there waiting to pounce on this, then unless an organism breaks the surface it will not get electrocuted....

Read the rest here.

Excellent Blog Awards: Part 2

Excellentblog_3 On to the excellent bloggers:

  • Hamjamser started out as dear husband's and older son's blog, but dear husband has moved on to Color Sweet Tooth, and older son (AKA Nigel Tangelo) has continued his wanderings around Hamjamser - a most unusual place.  There are so many descriptive posts about the locales, flora, and fauna but here's a recent favorite:


I've been meaning to post this picture for a while now. This is my new salamander, a gift from Lady Xeredile, straight from the palace furnaces. Isn't it adorable? It sits on top of its lantern all day, draped through the carrying ring to soak up sunlight, then crawls inside and lights up at night. It's brighter than a torch and much better behaved. I don't know how I did without it for so many years. I seem to remember walking into things a lot.

The lamp's a bit large for the salamander now, but it'll grow into it soon enough. Salamanders never stop growing. Other than that, it's a perfect lantern for a salamander. It's got windows made of the special insulated glass found in the Earthmover, a nice wide chimney for air (lit salamanders need lots of oxygen), and space for lots of coal or wood shavings in case it gets hungry. Salamanders only eat every few weeks, but their food needs to be good and flammable when they do. Mine seems very fond of pencil shavings and smoked squid. Fortunately, I have lots of both.

My garden is graced by the presence of many birds - today a small flock of cedar waxwings were scouting out the Savannah Holly tree that is covered in red berries, two pairs of blue birds were checking out the purple martin house - and herons seem to fly overhead everytime I looked up.  And has anyone else noticed how many hawks there are now? I haven't checked into this - but I can't help but hypothesize that their numbers are up.  The garden will be loud with chatter - then there will be cold silence.  It is during the silences that I almost always spot a hawk.

The kingfishers were racing down the tidal creek - all afternoon long.  I imagine that one of them is holding a stop watch, and shouting 'go' every few minutes.

She's further south than we are so I have been vicariously enjoying her flowers.  She shows what has been recently blooming in A Few Days in Mid-February (zone 8B).


Link Feast - December 8, 2007

Some interesting things I've found online lately (I've been putting this together for a while):

  • I moved this one to the top to encourage people to watch it.  I'm not much for reality shows, but I had tears in my eyes after this.  Watch it all the way through.  And then watch it again and focus on the judges' reactions. [Hat tip to Intellectuelle]

...My paradigm shift for the way I viewed this show came during the scene in Wicked when Dr. Dillamond -- the talking goat of a professor -- is teaching his students, "Food grew scarce, people grew hungrier and angrier. And the question became 'Whom can we blame?' Can anyone tell me what is meant by the term 'Scapegoat'?"

"My God," I was thinking. "This is exactly what happened here in Germany..."

As I was sitting there in my front row seat at Stuttgart's Palladium Theater, the allegories to Nazi Germany were suddenly striking me like thundering lightning bolts between the eyes...

Dear Abby,
Late breaking news: I am the MOTHER. That means you do what I say. That does not mean you listen and then whine a little and then think it over and then cry and then roll around on the floor and then stare at me balefully and then wait until I start counting to three and THEN you do what I say. It just means you do what I say.
The Tyrannical Being Who Is the Destroyer of All Fun

P.S.: Don’t stick your tongue out at me. I can see you...

  • Jason Hare and Jeff (of Jefitoblog) are doing the 25 days of Mellowmass (click here).  Every day, a new, and supremely kitschy, Christmas song for your amusement/bemusement.  Here's their introduction:

You may recall a little series that Jeff and I undertook last December.  It was entitled The Twelve Days Of Mellowmas, and it represented all that was both wonderful and awful about the holidays. For twelve straight days, Jeff and I listened to some of the worst holiday music imaginable - a different song each day - and shared not only the song, but our live conversation with all of you.

For instance, they've done:  Santa's Goin' to Kokomo by Mike Love, Having a Tropical Christmas by the Bellamy Brothers, I Want a Hippopotumus for Christmas by The Captain and Tennille, O Holy Night by Jim Nabors, and Happy Kwanzaa by Teddy Pendergrass.   

[Note:  Extremely snarky and peppered with lots of ... vivid language.  If that ruins your Christmas spirit, just move on to the next link.] 

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

  • World map challenge.  I've done it a few times, but I haven't finished all the levels yet.  I'm best at the Scandinavian countries, and I'm the worst at islands you can't see on the map.

I can't resist... one more lolcat:

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Link-snack, October 13, 2007

The fundamental incongruity between the willful myth-making of musicals (which we, like Richard Dyer, will take as the ideal-typical exemplar of professionalized entertainment) and American society as a whole is understood in terms of “escapism.” Everyone understood that the world of the 1930s Hollywood musical and Depression America were completely different, with the former an escape from the latter. Marxists critics are more apt to see this as a bad thing and to value art that “tells the truth” about society, while those in the entertainment industry are apt to wave away all such concerns with appeals to “entertainment”: both sides are indulging in a certain ideology, and each ideology adopts its own strategy of self-protection. As Gerald Mast points out, musicals always insist on their fluffiness, their lack of substance—they protest, a little too much, that they are “only entertainment,” which places them outside of critical argument and into that realm protected by the words de gustibus non est disputandum.

But what this means, among other things, is that the audience for the musical is an audience that is fully capable of understanding the distance between the idealized world on the screen and their own lives. The musical makes myth in an age when the act of making myth is fully visible and fully understood for what it is

Reason Number One: “I want to be a marine biologist so that I can talk to dolphins.”

Nodolphin Believing this is simply the Kiss of Death. This is the verbal equivalent of reaching down your throat, pulling out your own intestines, wrapping them around your neck and choking yourself. When we hear this our impulse is to thwack you a good one on your keester with the frozen haddock we keep within arm’s reach just for this occasion.

And why is that? It is because, and please listen carefully, while you may want to talk to dolphins, dolphins do not want to talk to you. That’s right. Mostly, dolphins want to eat fishes and have sex with other dolphins. And that pretty much cuts you out of the loop, doesn’t it? Oh, I know that there are the occasional dolphins that hang around beaches, swim with humans and seem to be chummy, but these are the exceptions. You don’t judge the whole human race by the people who attend monster car rallies, do you?

Just be honest with yourself. If you want to talk to dolphins you don’t want to be a biologist. What you really want to do is explore your past lives, get in touch with the Cosmic Oneness and conduct similar-minded individuals on tours to Central America looking for evidence that We Are Not Alone. Our experience is that people who feel this way last about 6.5 minutes in any biology program.

[Hat tip to Deep Sea News]

... But if the gods are in tune, Edna always will be played by a man. It's part of the compact "Hairspray" makes with its audience. They know Edna is a man and they accept that. The way they accept the black-white teenage love story, and the idea that the fat girl can win the gorgeous guy -- the whole show is about acceptance, acceptance of who you are and who the other guy is. That's what makes "Hairspray" the all-American show it is. And I'll smack you upside the head with my big fake boobs if you say otherwise.

[Hat tip to Steve on Broadway]

Online Cockroach Database (for Older Son and Anyone Else Who's Interested)...

...anyone else?  Anyone?

From Words and Pictures, The Roach Roll:

Today the Natural History Museum proudly announced the launch of the first online database catalogue of the world's cockroaches:

You may be surprised at the variety - there are about 4500 species of cockroach. They range from the world's smallest, which is three millimetres long, to the world's heaviest, the Australian rhinoceros cockroach, which weighs as much as three adult blue tits.

The Blattodea Species File Online - for all your online cockroach identification needs!

Oh, and Words and Pictures is also hosting the 23rd Circus of the Spineless.  Some favorites of mine are The Endangered Regal Fritillary, a sheep in wolf's clothing:

...I've had plenty land on me as I sat in the middle of the lek, and I still get creeped out when they settle on my back where I can't see them. Cicada killers are truly frightening to folks who don't know what they are, but rest assured for all their size and hectic activity, they are wussies...

Wolf Spider with Cubs, a longhorn beetle photo (and you might want to check out the bug of the day),  a post about how the flooding in England is having unusual results - Chinese Mitten Crabs crawling up and out of people's toilets (authorities recommend keeping the lid down), Tentacle pwn, and Stars on a sandflat.

And, also from Words and Pictures, a green shield bug nymph.