She plays o' the viol-de-gamboys, speaks three or four languages word for word without book, hath all the good gifts of nature, knows a hawk from a handsaw, and can see a church by daylight. The rest is subject to fancy.

Jólabókaflóð: An Icelandic Christmas Tradition

Iceland is not a huge country, but it has a millennia long rich literary history, beginning with the Old Norse Sagas. Everybody in Iceland reads, and everyone buys books, and just about half of the people of Iceland have written (and often self-published) books. Every year, there’s a traditions of Jólabókaflóð, or “Yule Book Flood,” a reference to the national Icelandic practice of giving books to friends and family, who then spend Christmas Eve staying up and reading their new books.

Jólabókaflóð started because of World War II; import tariffs and currency problems, among other difficulties, made gift-giving difficult. But paper wasn’t so dear, and books were available. Book-giving became a cultural institution, and in a nation of readers (Icelanders read more books per capita than most), a Yule-tide phenomena, culminating in a national book catalog, the bókatíðindi, sent to all Iceland households. The tradition has shaped Iceland’s publishing tradition, with most books, and almost all hardcover books released between October and November, in time for gift-giving.

Gifts are usually opened on Christmas Eve, and it’s not Christmas if you don’t receive at least one book. Memes about Jólabókaflóð have reached Facebook, Twitter and mainstream media, popularizing the idea of curling up with a books, some chocolate and a beverage as you read through Christmas Eve.

Elsewhere for December 15, 2018

You should read this for 12/15/2018:

Art and Film

Via The Getty: The Renaissance Nude

Books, Writing, and Language

A Pleasure to Read You

“Shouldn’t literature enchant, surprise, and teach us? And to make this happen, shouldn’t we be the most expert readers we can be?”

What all these interested parties are saying is that a successful work of literature depends on a successful reading of its contents, and that the pleasure involved derives from the text’s power to immerse us, enchant us, surprise us, and teach us. So far so good. But how do I know that you find the same pleasure in the same lines, passages, and books that I do?

Via Columbia Journalism Review What’s behind a recent rise in books coverage?

IF IT OCCASIONALLY FEELS like nobody reads books, anymore—that we are indeed witnessing the slow death of the literary novel, and the rapid decline of leisure reading, and the steady increase of American non-readers—why is it that mainstream publications are writing more about them?

This piece by Sam Eichner discussed the increase in publications covering books, and book reviews, and the increase in coverage by publications (and Web sites) who already reviewed books. One of the bits that particularly caught my eye was this:

BuzzFeed News Books Editor Arianna Rebolini says. “As far as the online world, of course, you’re not limited, but time is. And are you going to put your time into something that’s not going to share well?”


Food and Drink

Homemade Tartar Sauce “How to make tartar sauce with mayonnaise, dill pickles, capers, mustard, shallots, scallions, Tabasco and lemon juice. Perfect with fish or crab cakes.”

History and Archaeology

Identity of Little Foot fossil stirs controversy

More than 20 years ago, paleoanthropologists began to painstakingly excavate the rock-encased skeleton of an ancient hominid from deep inside a South African cave. Last week, they offered the first in-depth measurements of the skeleton dubbed “Little Foot,” the most complete ancient hominin in the fossil record. Now, researchers say the skeleton is of an elderly female, about 3.67 million years old, and a member of the genus Australopithecus. But how she fits into the broader picture of hominin evolution—and which species she belongs to—has sparked fierce debate among competing teams.

A Meteor may have Exploded in the Air 3,700 Years Ago, Obliterating Communities Near the Dead Sea

A meteor that exploded in the air near the Dead Sea 3,700 years ago may have wiped out communities, killed tens of thousands of people, and provided the kernel of truth to an old Bible story. The area is in modern-day Jordan, in a 25 km wide circular plain called Middle Ghor. Most of the evidence for this event comes from archaeological evidence excavated at the Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hammam located in that area, which some scholars say is the city of Sodom from the Bible.

“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.” – Genesis 19:24-25

Science and Nature

Hidden Gems: Scotland’s Agates

CNN: According to the Deep Carbon Observatory Scientists discover billions of tons of ‘zombie’ bacteria inhabits the ground beneath our feet

The biomass of the organisms’ ecosystem is estimated at 15 to 23 billion metric tonnes (16.6 to 25.4 billion tons), which is hundreds of times greater than that of all human life, and comprises a volume of 2 to 2.3 billion cubic kilometers (480 to 550 million cubic miles) — almost twice that of all the planet’s oceans.

See also Nature’s Scientists Reveal a Massive Biosphere of Life Hidden Under Earth’s Surface

“Exploring the deep subsurface is akin to exploring the Amazon rainforest,” says microbiologist Mitch Sogin from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
“There is life everywhere, and everywhere there’s an awe-inspiring abundance of unexpected and unusual organisms.”
These lifeforms aren’t just unusual for their appearance and habitat, but the actual way they exist, with incredibly slow and long life cycles drawn out over near-geologic timescales, and – in the absence of sunlight – subsisting on meagre amounts of chemical energy harvested from their rocky surroundings.
“The strangest thing for me is that some organisms can exist for millennia,” Lloyd explained to The Guardian.
“They are metabolically active but in stasis, with less energy than we thought possible of supporting life.”

What’s Next for NASA’s Voyager 2 in Interstellar Space?

WASHINGTON — Voyager 2 has passed an incredible milestone in its journey to explore the solar system by entering interstellar space, but neither its travels nor its science are ending any time soon.

NASA Already Made a Surprising Discovery About The Asteroid They Only Just Reached Bennu or a larger parent asteroid, once contained liquid water.

A lone spacecraft is hovering 12 miles above the surface of a tiny asteroid millions of miles away, closely examining its surface. And it just sent back its first readings.
As part of NASA’s Origins Program, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft traveled to an asteroid called Bennu some 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) from the Sun, finally arriving at the 1,600-foot-wide (487-meter) asteroid on December 3.


Is Gender Identity Unique to Humans?

Doctors Are Being Cyberbullied: Why That’s Bad, and How We’re Fighting Back


Is US military cloud safe from Russia? Fears over sensitive data “A technology company bidding for a Pentagon contract to store sensitive data has close partnerships with a firm linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, the BBC has learned.”

Top military secrets will be transferred to the Jedi cloud, including classified details about weapons systems, military personnel, intelligence and operations.

This is such a bad idea that my stomach hurts just thinking about it.

Women’s Work

A Woman’s Uterus May Play a Role in Memory and Cognition

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Trump administration slow to grant Native Americans land, say tribes

The Native American tribe to first meet the Pilgrims, the Mashpee Wampanoag, are at risk of losing their land due to a move by the US government to reverse the tribe’s recognition. The National Congress of American Indians worry this is an emerging pattern.

Mashpee Wampanoag Phillip Wynne, of Sagamore, Mass., pours water to control fire and temperatures while making a mishoon, a type of boat, from a tree at the Wampanoag Homesite at Plimoth Plantation, in Plymouth, Mass.

Mayors And Governors Rebut Trump Administration Position At Climate Summit

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

U.S. returns bells looted after Philippine wartime massacre


The bright red blossoms and attractive green leaves of the poinsettia plant have become almost as closely associated with Christmas as the holly plant and the evergreen conifer. Technically known as Euphorbia pulcherrima, the poinsettia is a native plant of Mexico, introduced to the U.S. in 1828 by the first American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. A botanist, Poinsett was fascinated by the plant’s botanical oddities as well as its striking appearance and seasonal bloom. In its native tropical habitat the poinsettia is a low-growing skimpy-looking bush. The brilliant red poinsettia blossoms (which can also be striated, pink white or pale green) are merely leaves lacking in chlorophyll. The actual flowers are the small yellow clusters slightly beneath and surrounded by the leaves.

Cluster of bright red Poinsettia plants

The dramatic appearance of the poinsettia encouraged the Aztecs to value the poinsettia. They used the bracts (the technical name for the brightly colored, but not solidly green leaves) to make a dye, and as an anti-bacterial for dressing wounds. Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had caravans of the Cuetlaxochitl plants brought to the area now known as Mexico City since the plants did not thrive at high altitudes. Towards the end of the sixteenth century in Mexico, folklore references to a variety of stories about a little girl from a family too poor to afford a gift for the local before the church’s altar. Miraculously, the legend says, the leaves turned into bright crimson blossoms. By the mid seventeenth century, Franciscan friars serving missions throughout Mexico began incorporating poinsettia into their Christmas festivals.

The Eckes had two secret techniques for poinsettia propagation. First, they grafted two varieties of poinsettia together, thus making it possible for the resulting seedlings to branch outwardly, rather than merely grow upward. Secondly, they knew that the colors of the bracts derive from photoperiodism. The bracts are initially  green, but then change to red (or pink or cream) but the bracts require darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias finish that process, the plants require abundant light during the day for the brightest color.

It is thanks to the Ecke family of Southern California that we are so very familiar with the poinsettia as a Christmas and holiday plant. In their native habitat, poinsettias can grow up to ten feet tall. Until the 1990s, when a university botanist figured out how they did it, the Eckes controlled the secret of propagating Poinsettias so that their poinsettias were were bushy, leafy and compact, instead of the usual spindly, vertical-growing shrubs.

It’s not terribly difficult to keep a poinsettia healthy and in “bloom” during the Christmas season, and even after. It’s even possible to have the same poinsettia plant bloom year after year, since they are perennials. During December and January, while the plant has crimson or other colored bracts, check the soil daily. If the soil is dry to the touch, then water the poinsettia until the water runs out of the drainage hole (but do not leave the plant sitting in water). I usually put the pot in the sink and use the sprayer to thoroughly soak the soil. Poinsettias need sun, so avoid a northern window in favor of one facing, south, east or even west. Avoid direct contact with the window’s cold surface. For year-round care, see this page. . And, in case you were wondering, no, the poinsettia is not poisonous though some people may have a contact allergy to the latex in the poinsettia’s sap, a characteristic of Euphorbia plants, including Crown of Thorns. Cats and dogs, however, should be kept away from Poinsettias.

George C. Scott A Christmas Carol

I rather like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I like it so much that two years ago I created an annotated version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I liked Patrick Stewart’s one-man performance every time I saw it at UCLA. I am less fond of Stewart’s film version, but that’s partially because I dearly love the George C. Scott A Christmas Carol film. Right now, Amazon is selling a DVD of George C. Scott’s A Christmas Carol as a $3.99 “Add-On” when you purchase $25.00 worth of stuff. 

Elsewhere for December 8, 2018

You should read this for 12/8/2018:

Art and Film

Secrets of the Magus

Ricky Jay does closeup magic that flouts reality. But, rather than headline in Las Vegas, Jay prefers to live in the mysterious world of ancient mountebanks, eccentric entertainers, and sleight-of-hand artists, whose secrets he preserves with a scholarly passion, and who are his true peers in the realm of illusion.

Lara Feigel in The Guardian: How free is free love? How polyamory lost its allure

Getty museum must return 2,000-year-old statue, Italian court rules

Doctor Who backlash shows why it’s time to bin the phrase “politically correct”

Books, Writing, and Language

The Steward of Middle-earth


Degrees of Ignorance

Should Studying Literature Be Fun?

Food and Drink

Melting Potatoes

Actor Tituss Burgess on His Pinot Noir

Bourbon Mashed Sweet Potatoes

History and Archaeology

The boozy and violent story behind America’s Eggnog Riot

Scientists Discovered The Oldest Human Plague. It Took Down Neolithic Farmers And Changed Europe’s History

Buried among 77 other people from her village in western Sweden are the bones of a 20 year-old woman. Now an analysis of DNA extracted from her teeth reveals what likely killed her. An international team of researchers has discovered the woman, who died some 5,000 years ago, had the oldest known case of the plague.

Ava A Woman from Scotland 4,250 Years Ago

Science and Nature

“We’re sounding the alarm”: half of Canada’s chinook salmon endangered “Only one of the country’s 16 populations is believed to be stable.”

“The really big overarching stressor is climate change,” said Hill. “That’s creating less favourable conditions for our fish in the ocean and the freshwater – and that’s exacerbated by all these other stressors.”


Australia cuts plastic bag use by 80% in 3 months after supermarket ban

It was a rocky start. But three months later Australia reports an 80 percent reduction in plastic bag consumption, a cut that kept as many as 1.5 plastic bags from entering the environment, according to Australia’s National Retail Association.


Apple Computer’s Tim Cook: ‘We won’t give a platform to violent conspiracy theorists’

The debate as to whether tech platforms should let hate groups or conspiracy theorists remain on their platforms reached a fever pitch this year. That’s when Apple made a statement about conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, removing his InfoWars podcast from iTunes and his app from the App Store.

SubEthaEdit 5 – Now free and open source!

Photolemur photo editor available Thursday in Klingon, reveals Apple leadership to be aliens

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Women’s Work

Michelle Obama’s Take On “Lean In”? “That &#%! Doesn’t Work”

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

A Dutch church has been conducting religious services for 27 days to protect a refugee family

For the past 27 days, a small Protestant church in The Hague has been conducting round-the-clock religious services to protect an Armenian refugee family from deportation.

H/T @/_JDBurroughs_ Inexpensive Mylar blankets could save lives You can buy mylar blankets online very cheaply and they are small and easy to to carry around in a purse or bag to give to any rough sleepers you see.

It could save lives this winter. Support a classroom. Build a future. Teachers all over the U.S. need your help to bring their classroom dreams to life. Choose a project that inspires you and give any amount.

Two Women Erased $1.5 Million of Strangers’ Medical Debt Just Because They Felt Like It I’ve posted about this before, but it’s still happening. 

Elsewhere for November 23, 2018

You should read this for 11/24/2018:

Art and Film

Classic film streaming service FilmStruck rises from the dead…sort of

While FilmStruck is still toast, the folks that own the Criterion Collection–a company that focuses on historically important classic films–is launching the next best thing: The Criterion Channel

YouTube quietly added free, ad-supported movies to its site

France will have to change its laws to return its looted African art “France is set to make good on president Emmanuel Macron’s promise to return Africa’s stolen art and artifacts.”

Books, Writing, and Language

Via Open Culture: Free: Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum


Texas schools make slavery a ‘central’ fact of the Civil War and no one can believe it

Lawrence Allen Jr., the only black member of the board, hopes the new standards will reinforce the connection between slavery and the Civil War since there’s no “consensus” over the war’s causes.

I can’t think of an accredited Civil War historian has a consensus who doesn’t cite the slavery as the motivating cause for the war.

Food and Drink

Aquafaba: the miracle vegan ingredient you’ve been throwing away “The cooking water from chickpeas is nutritious, delicious and whips up into a brilliant mayonnaise.”

In praise of vintage cookbooks “The pictures might be kitsch, the ingredients might be basic, but there is a value in simplicity”

Why Most of America Is Terrible at Making Biscuits Ultimately, it’s all about the flour; soft-wheat flour, aka as White Lily all over the southern states of America.

History and Archaeology

First ever Celtic chariot burial to be found in Wales This is a very important find, and includes the chariot, the tack for the horses, some of it ornamented with red enamel, and possibly human and equine remains. We’ll have to wait for spring for the full excavation. This would have been an important person, buried with a fair amount of ritual, some 2,000 or more years ago, c. the century of the Roman invasion of Wales; in other words, we don’t know yet if this pre-Roman or post-Roman.

Science and Nature

Out on the dark Gloucestershire hills on badger patrol as culling row returns… “With the number of cattle infected with bovine TB still rising, farmers and campaigners remain divided on the cause.”

Iain McGill, a former government vet, found that there were 22 herds with TB in the zone in the first 10 months of 2018, up from 17 herds during the whole of the 2016-17 culling year. . . .
Instead [Mcgill] blames the government’s testing regime, which he claims allows infected cattle to be bought and sold. “The standard screening test used by the government only detects approximately 50% of infected cattle. This is a disaster because it means the infected cattle are being moved to market and on to other farms in the country,” he says.

Via Scott: Every day’s Thanksgiving for the animal world’s extreme eaters


Productivity woes? Why giving staff an extra day off can be the answer “Firms that operate a four-day week with no cut in pay or benefits, as proposed last week by John McDonnell, can see improvements in staff morale and health as well as revenue”

“We have these promised productivity benefits, and we wanted to think about ways workers can get a fair share of them,” she says. “If the weekend was the achievement of the 20th century, the four-day week should be our aim for the 21st century.”



You Snooze, You Lose: Insurers Make The Old Adage Literally True

Last March, Tony Schmidt discovered something unsettling about the machine that helps him breathe at night. Without his knowledge, it was spying on him.
From his bedside, the device was tracking when he was using it and sending the information not just to his doctor, but to the maker of the machine, to the medical supply company that provided it and to his health insurer.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Via Vox:  Sean Illing interviews linguist George Lakoff about how journalists can respond to Trump’s strategy of lying to distract from the truth he doesn’t want covered: How the media should respond to Trump’s lies “A linguist explains how Trump uses lies to divert attention from the “big truths.”

Journalists could engage in what I’ve called “truth sandwiches,” which means that you first tell the truth; then you point out what the lie is and how it diverges from the truth. Then you repeat the truth and tell the consequences of the difference between the truth and the lie.

Read the interview, but first read this piece Lakoff wrote about A Blitzkrieg Strategy Of Lies and Distractions “Trump counts on reporters to chase his lies and distractions like dogs chase balls. Too often, they meet his expectations.”

The key takeaway:

It’s a numbers game. The more he can get his key terms and images repeated in the media — even as “fact checks” — the more he wins. That’s just how our brains work. The more we hear about something, the more it sticks. Even if it’s not true. When I say “don’t think of an elephant,” it forces you to think of an elephant. Repeating lies, even to debunk them, helps spread and strengthen them. The scientific evidence is clear.

Donald Trump’s $12 billion bailout of farmers who were hurt by his trade wars has been a big failure “very little of Trump’s $12 billion bailout has gone to struggling farmers.” See also the original New York Times report.

Women’s Work

Michelle Obama Answers the Questions that Matter

Stacey Abrams Says She Was Almost Blocked From Voting In Georgia Election

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Here’s how to better support people who are suicidal

Some oil rigs in California are absolutely teeming with sea life

In the hazy distance off the coast of Southern California, a couple of dozen drilling platforms loom as dark shadows on the horizon, a reminder of the state’s once friendly relationship with the oil industry. But beneath the surface, some of the rigs are teeming with biological life. Dozens of fish species, thousands of different kinds of invertebrates, and sea lions all call the rigs home.

TOMS founder makes an emotional announcement pledging $5 million to tackle gun violence

. . . the TOMS website now has a way for people to easily and quickly let Congress know they want to see legislative action on gun control. Filling out a simple form with your name, address, and email will automatically send a physical postcard to your state’s representatives to tell them you want them to support universal background checks—a legislative move more than 90% of Americans say they support. Sending the postcard literally takes 30 seconds—less if you have autofill provide your info.

Child’s note tells driver bus hit his parked car

Elsewhere for November 17, 2018

You should read this for 11/17/2018:

Art and Film

The world’s oldest figurative drawing depicts a wounded animal “The 40,000-year-old cave painting in a cave in Borneo depicts a speared animal.”

New radiometric dating identifies the oldest known figurative drawing—not a stenciled outline of a hand or an abstract design, but an actual attempt to depict a real object in an image. As far as we know, a cave wall in Indonesian Borneo was the site for the first time a person drew something, rather than just making abstract marks. The drawing is at least 40,000 years old, based on uranium-series dating of a thin layer of rock deposited on top of the drawing since its creation.


Books, Writing, and Language

From Madonna’s Sex to Lady Chatterley: inside the Bodleian’s explicit book club “Created at the height of Victorian prudishness, the Bodleian Library’s Phi collection was designed to protect young minds from “immoral” books. More than a century later, they’re going on display for the first time”

The One Direction Fan-Fiction Novel That Became a Literary Sensation

Isabel Allende’s Unconventional Advice for Finding Writing Inspiration

‘Ignore this’: Jonathan Franzen’s top 10 writing tips get gleefully trolled on Twitter

American novelist Jonathan Franzen has drawn the ire of fellow writers, who are mercilessly trolling him following an article in which he lists his 10 writing rules for aspiring novelists.


UW-Stevens Point Eliminating 6 Majors In Humanities To Address Budget Shortfall

The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is eliminating six degree programs in the humanities to address budget deficits and increasing drops in enrollment. The changes are aimed at creating a new regional university model that is more career focused, according to the university.
The university originally proposed cutting 13 degree programs, which led to student protestson campus and a sit in at the UW System Board of Regents office in Madison. The six majors that will be cut include: French, German, geography, geology, history, and two- and three-dimensional art, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

What the article doesn’t specify is that the years of budget cuts took place because of the actions of Scott Walker.

The Chronicle of Higher Education interviews historian Jill Lepore: ‘The Academy Is Largely Itself Responsible for Its Own Peril’ “Jill Lepore on writing the story of America, the rise and fall of the fact, and how women’s intellectual authority is undermined”

Lepore’s history of America Jill Lepore’s These Truths is a NYT bestseller. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Food and Drink

Vitamin D And Fish Oil Supplements Disappoint In Long-Awaited Study Results


While the overall results were disappointing, there appeared to be a beneficial effect when it came to one aspect of heart disease and fish oil: heart attacks.

Taking fish oil lowered the risk of heart attack by about 28 percent, which is a “statistically significant” finding, says Dr. JoAnn Manson, who is chief of the division of preventive medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She led the research.

And see also: Cardiovascular Risk Reduction with Icosapent Ethyl for Hypertriglyceridemia

Patients with elevated triglyceride levels are at increased risk for ischemic events. Icosapent ethyl, a highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl ester, lowers triglyceride levels, but data are needed to determine its effects on ischemic events.

Ars Technica on Homebrewing cider

American Winemakers Are Getting In On The Fun Of Beaujolais Nouveau

The third Thursday of every November is Beaujolais Nouveau Day. Made from gamay, the primary grape in Beaujolais, a winemaking region in eastern France, traditional Nouveau is bottled not long after the harvest and is only about two months old when you traditionally uncork it. . . . Beaujolais Nouveau isn’t just hype. It’s a way for winemakers to celebrate the end of the harvest, a two-month period of intense work—picking and sorting grapes by hand and then pressing and bottling them into wine.

Via Clare Smyth in The Guardian: Gordon Ramsey’s Broccoli Soup

History and Archaeology

Eerie recording reveals moment the guns fell silent at the end of WWI

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent. It brought an end to four years of war which crippled Europe, leaving 17 million dead including 888,246 British or Colonial servicemen. As we approach the centenary of the Armistice on November 11, the Imperial War Museum has released a recording of the moment the war ended, patched together using recordings from their collections.

‘Moai are family’: Easter Island people to head to London to request statue back “Delegation from island, backed by Chilean government, will ask for return of statue British Museum acquired in 1869”

Towering at the entrance of the British Museum’s Wellcome gallery is a 2.5-metre basalt statue from Easter Island. For indigenous Rapa Nui islanders, such statues — known as moai – carry the spirit of prominent ancestors and are considered the living incarnation of their relatives.

Next week, a delegation from the island – which has been part of Chile since 1888 and is officially known as Rapa Nui – will travel to London to request the moai’s return, emboldened by the backing of the Chilean government and the museum’s willingness to engage in talks for the first time since it acquired the statue in 1869.

Science and Nature

The 26-foot-long “unicorn of the sea” is a lesson in the wonders of collaboration

Pyrosomes, also known as unicorns of the sea, are exceptional evidence of the advantages of cooperation. These colonies of creatures, made up of hundreds or thousands of individual organisms known as zooids, travel together in a single gelatinous tunic.

Stunning astronaut photos show Australia’s outback “like an open geology book”


Children in care homes: ‘It makes residents feel more human’ “The more time young and old people spend together, the more both parties benefit”

Why are attitudes to meat so complex and personal? I draw the line at cephalopods

I eat all sorts of creatures, but I won’t touch octopus – which only exposes my hypocrisy and our complicated relationship with food

This encapsulates my own feeling about octopus. And I’m not apologetic about it.

How moving to the US made me appreciate the House of Lords

One major issue is voter suppression, which is (currently) barely a thing in the UK. Methods vary from state to state, but there’s a clear trend: disenfranchisement of predominately working-class, African American, Latino and other minority voters in places where Republicans control the state legislature. In Georgia, roughly 700,000 were purged from electoral rolls in 2017 without being informed and this year 53,000 people, 70% of whom were African American, were prevented from registering to vote for reasons as trivial as a misplaced hyphen. This process was overseen by then secretary of state Brian Kemp, who just happens to have also been Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial candidate for the GOP – and who seems to have beaten Democrat Stacey Abrams, the first black woman in history to be a major party’s nominee for governor, by a very narrow margin.

After NRA Mocks Doctors, Physicians Reply: “This Is Our Lane”


Rural Kids Face An Internet “Homework Gap”. The FCC Could Help

Seth Abramson’s Metamodernism Preceded His Resistance “He has played ‘metamodernist’ games throughout his career.”

Do we have a moral obligation to quit Facebook? and also: Facebook hired firm with ‘in-house fake news shop’ to combat PR crisis and Facebook probably didn’t want to be denying it paid people to create fake news this week, but here we are

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Via John R. Schlinder in The Observer: Team Mueller is Holding ‘Dozens of Sealed Indictments,’ According to Intel Source

Veterans haven’t received GI Bill benefits for months due to ongoing IT issues at VA “This is — to be kind — a train wreck,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Without the GI Bill’s housing stipend, Roundtree was kicked out of his apartment and is now living on his sister’s couch, miles from school, where he feels like a burden on his family. The new living situation required him to move all his belongings into a storage container, which he can no longer afford. Now all of his possessions are in danger of being auctioned off by the storage facility.

This Is the Saturday Night Massacre

With the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, America is in uncharted territory. The last time a president made a personnel change to undermine an investigation of his associates, Congress forced him to resign. That was when President Richard Nixon pushed out his attorney general and deputy attorney general so he could fire the special prosecutor. The fallout from this Saturday Night Massacre, as it is known, has stood as a warning to subsequent presidents. Yet President Trump has launched a piecemeal Saturday Night Massacre of his own. He first fired FBI Director James Comey last year for his handling of the Russia probe, then he fired the attorney general for failing to protect him from the Russia probe. His intent to undermine an investigation of his campaign has been clear throughout—he barely tried to hide it—but the difference this time is that he has acted with impunity. What comes next could be anything.

Melania Trump racked up $174,000 in hotel bills for a day trip to Toronto

How Trump and her staff ran up nearly $200,000 in hotel bills for a 12-hour trip is unclear (the total was nearly double the $95,050 bill for a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, where she stopped for a day last month during a trip to Africa). All six charges for the first lady’s Toronto hotel bills were paid to “miscellaneous foreign awardees” rather than a specific hotel.

Women’s Work

‘The lesson is to be hopeful’: Ilhan Omar’s journey from Somali refugee to US Congress

Ilhan Omar, who lived in a Somali refugee camp when she was a girl and was elected to the US Congress last week, has said she hopes her victory would give hope to those whose childhoods resembled hers.

Someone tried roasting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ wardrobe, and got meme’d

Women and the first world war: a taste of freedom “For many women on the home front, the war years became a springboard to liberation. But with peace came the backlash.”

‘They see no shame’: ‘honour’ killing video shows plight of Syrian women

“These are people who see no shame in killing the girl, but actually believe it’s what washes away the shame she has brought on the whole family,” says exiled Syrian writer Loubna Mrie. “An innocent girl is dead because some guy posted her pictures on Facebook.”

Nina Totenberg via NPR: How A Lawyer In The CNN Case Saved Me From Being Shut Down On My Beat

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Wallace & Gromit‘s Creators Are Giving The Company to Their Employees “Aardman Animation will be giving majority shares to their workers.”

Two Cats Have Spent Two Years Trying To Get Into A Japanese Art Museum

Why I’m helping people fight their biases

How to be kind at work, no matter how you’re feeling

If you think your workplace could use a little more kindness, one of the first steps you can take is to recognize that kindness is an action.

Some great, simple non-demanding ways to make the day better for you, and someone else.

Elsewhere for November 10, 2018

You should read this for 11/10/2018:

Art and Film

Murdered mob boss gave stolen Boston art to IRA, says former Met detective

Rembrandt and Vermeer masterpieces taken in 1990 heist linked to James “Whitey” Bulger are stashed in Ireland, says sleuth.

Extreme Sheep-Herding With LED Lights “Baaastud’s multifaceted team visits the hills of Wales to lightly promote Samsung LED TV sets with the help of sheep fitted with LED vests.”

Books, Writing, and Language

Our book launch was botched and it’s been crazy at work trying to fix it


Phenomenally saddening”: inside the sordid world of America’s for-profit colleges “The new documentary Fail State, executive produced by Dan Rather, tells the 50-year tale of profit-driven colleges scamming society’s most vulnerable”

Relying heavily on federal student loans, from which it took $1.4bn in yearly revenue, Corinthian was on the brink of collapse after the department of education halted the company’s flow of federal funding due to evidence of rampant fraud in its reporting of grades and job placements.

Corinthian, a behemoth of the for-profit college industry that marketed its vocational and post-secondary programs to single mothers at or below the poverty line, was already under investigation by various federal agencies, the education department, and 20 different state attorneys general when it said it could not operate for more than a few days without an influx of cash.

And this is particularly important:

That the president himself once ran a criminal for-profit education company – and that he’d appoint in education secretary Betsy DeVos a willing foot soldier for their cause – was not something Shebanow and his team anticipated when they began work on Fail State back in 2013. The saga of Trump University has been well-documented, but DeVos’s overtures toward the for-profit industry, including the elimination or rollback of Obama-era gainful employment and student borrower defense regulations, have gone mostly under the radar. DeVos, the director explains, is also tinkering with rules mandating “substantive teacher-student interaction”, which ensures students at for-profits are not navigating their coursework alone.

Food and Drink

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon Recipe as a .pdf from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

History and Archaeology

Thomas Becket’s bloody tunic returns to Canterbury 850 years after he died

Vatican to send back historic relic worn by archbishop as he was brutally murdered

How to explain the KGB’s amazing success identifying CIA agents in the field? “Paranoid CIA heads blamed Soviet moles, but the real reason for the repeated disasters was much simpler”

A Ramp Contraption May Have Been Used to Build Egypt’s Great Pyramid “The finding could help answer a longstanding question of how massive stone blocks were hauled into place.”

It was very hard for him”: relatives remember first world war survivors

The Kindertransport children 80 years on: “I was bowled over that these non-Jewish people were nice to us


The Freddie Mercury biopic isn’t homophobic – it’s inspiring

Back with the real Beatles: the White Album reviewed – archive, 1968 “Fifty years ago, the Guardian printed two reviews of The Beatles and recommended listening to ‘what is likely to be the biggest event of the pop music year’ in stereo”

What the Beatles Sounded Like Unedited “Fifty years after its debut, The White Album has been reissued to include demos and sessions, giving listeners a wider lens through which to examine the seminal work from the band.”

Science and Nature

World’s largest deep-sea octopus nursery discovered

Scientists discovered over 1,000 females, many brooding eggs, in a shimmering “octopus garden” that may be seeping natural gas or hot water.

Recent Interstellar Asteroid May Have Been Alien Artifact, Speculates New Paper

Ocean floor rover finds large shark nursery in Irish waters “Vehicle discovers school of blackmouth catsharks around thousands of egg cases”

Millions of starfish are mysteriously dying, and now scientists think they know why


The American civil war didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president

His supporters hark back to an 1860s fantasy of white male dominance. But the Confederacy won’t win in the long run. . . . It’s worth remembering that the Ku Klux Klan also hated Jews and, back then, Catholics; that the ideal of whiteness was anti-immigrant, anti-diversity, anti-inclusion; that Confederate flags went up not in the immediate post-war period of the 1860s but in the 1960s as a riposte to the civil rights movement.

I Didn’t Know I Was Intersex — Until I Made a Film About an Intersex Character

Experiences like mine are common for intersex people around the world. Vulnerable and scared parents adamantly follow doctors’ orders to “normalize” our bodies with unnecessary surgeries — removing or adding to our natural anatomies and pumping us with “corrective” hormones without consulting us about how we identify or how we feel. They fail to understand that gender, sex, and sexuality occur on a spectrum. Furthermore, doctors perpetuate the false idea that ‘no one is like us,’ — that we are not normal — keeping us in cycles of shame and immense loneliness. In fact, 1 in 1500 to 1 in 2000 people are intersex — it’s as common as having naturally red hair. Statistically, it’s likely that there is someone in your own community who is intersex but is perhaps too scared to be public about their identity (and understandably so).


Touring the recreated 1969 birthplace of the internet at UCLA

On October 29, 1969, UCLA grad student Charley Kline sat in a room in Boelter Hall and typed the first message on the ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet. He wrote “lo;” before he could get to the “g” in “login” the system crashed.

Via NPR: Supreme Court Won’t Review Decision That OK’d Obama-Era Net Neutrality Rules

Still, the high court’s rejection preserves the appeals court’s decision as a possible precedent and makes it even more likely that the issue will resurface if the FCC shifts its makeup — something that would happen if Democrats are able to win back the White House in 2020.
The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality is also the subject of separate legal battles, after it was challenged by tech companies and advocacy groups, in addition to more than 20 U.S. states.

He said jobs were coming back”: the Trump voters who feel cheated

“I wanted to believe in Mr Trump,” one manufacturing worker laid off after 30 years says. “This has been a slap in the face”

Trump wants voters to think the US economy is booming – is it?

As the Federal Reserve raises rates, stock markets are wobbling, and Trump has publicly attacked the Fed, an unprecedented move for a sitting president. China’s growth is stalling, Europe once more looks like it is heading for trouble, some economists are predicting a recession next year.

Greg Miller. The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy. The Apprentice review: Trump, Putin and the subversion of US democracy

“All of this happened,” Miller writes. But instead of it happening in secret, nearly all of it occurred in plain sight, overwhelming the ability of most journalists to keep up and preventing millions of average voters from reaching the rather obvious conclusion that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s apprentice.

US democracy is in crisis. But Trump is only the symptom

This situation points to the true constitutional crisis that afflicts the United States. The fact that Trump is president and the fact that the Senate and supreme court are, if not in his hands, then at least likely to back him, are not the cause of this crisis – they are symptoms of it.

The bitter reality for journalists covering a president who lies, and lies, and lies some more

Trump slams “stupid question” from female reporter, calls April Ryan a “loser”

AP: Video expert says White House clip of CNN reporter was likely doctored [Updated]

The video is altered, Shapiro told the AP, to make Acosta’s actions as he held on to the microphone look faster and more aggressive. Shapiro noted that one first indicator that the video is not an original is that the sound has been removed, which makes it easier to alter frames. Next, in a frame-by-frame comparison, several extra frames appear toward the beginning of the video, which would be true if a video manipulator was trying to slow the video down. Someone might do this if they later wanted to speed the video up, to keep the clip and its original a similar length. Sure enough, the White House’s clip appears sped up during the actual exchange between Acosta and the White House intern.

In photos: #ProtectMueller protests in cities all across America See also: #ProtectMueller protests demand justice, “Trump is not above the law.” (Video, Photos)

Women’s Work

Setting sail: one woman’s year alone at sea

She’s made us proud”: Ilhan Omar’s journey from Kenyan refugee camp to US Congress

Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, will assume office in January, sharing the historic distinction with Rashida Tlaib of being the first Muslim women elected to the US Congress.

Michelle Obama reveals miscarriage and condemns “reckless” Trump in new book

Gentleman Jack by Angela Steidele review – seductions of a secret diarist “A new account of a pioneering lesbian life draws on a diary with graphic descriptions of sex in code”

I did it for every single girl”: the first Afghan woman to scale Mount Noshaq “Conquering Afghanistan’s highest peak was once unthinkable for Hanifa Yousoufi. Then she joined a climbing group, braving frostbite and the Taliban to strike a blow for gender equality”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is working from home today, because it’s just three broken ribs

Millennial congresswoman “can’t afford rent” “The youngest woman ever elected to Congress has a problem — she can’t afford her rent. That is until she starts her new job in January.”

Ms Ocasio-Cortez joins Republican Elise Stefanik, 34, and newly-elected Democrat Ilhan Omar, 36, amongst others, in the “millennial caucus” in Congress.

She was elected to New York’s 14th congressional district, after running a progressive campaign that focussed on issues like poverty, wealth inequality and immigration.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Business Statement for Transgender Equality

We, the undersigned businesses, stand with the millions of people in America who identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex, and call for all such people to be treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.

We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations. We also fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex.

Elsewhere for November 3, 2018

You should read this for 11/3/2018:

Art and Film

Barbra Streisand’s ‘Carpool Karaoke’ has an A+ anecdote about her calling up Tim Cook

Books, Writing, and Language

What it’s like to listen to cricket on the radio for the first time.

Antarctic scientist “stabs colleague who kept telling him endings of books he was reading”

You can unzip this tiny image on Twitter to reveal the complete works of Shakespeare Really. It’s pretty cool.

The Many Ways YA Books & The Community Isolates Teens The popularity of YA books in terms of non-YA book buyers has some interesting side effects, according to this provocative and thoughtful post from a teen YA reader.

Via Open Culture: Growing Up Surrounded by Books Has a Lasting Positive Effect on the Brain, Says a New Scientific Study

[R]esearchers at the Australian National University have reported that growing up in a household filled with books can lead to proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology, even if you don’t go on to university.

You can read the Open Culture summary of the study, or read Joanna Sikora’s actual study at Social Science Research.

Food and Drink

Sauvignon blanc with fish tacos

Via Simply Recipes and Sally Vargas: Make-Ahead Dinner Rolls I’m familiar with yeast-rolls that you make and freeze for later use. What’s interesting about this recipe is that it uses potato flakes in addition to the usual flour, salt and yeast.

Love Indian food? A cookbook challenges everything you know about the cuisine

Sonal Ved, the food editor at Vogue India, told Quartz. “But what about hyper-regional recipes? Like food from Bhatinda, or curries from the Saraswat Goan community; what about cuisine from the deserts of Kutch, or that cooked by the Memon community in Mumbai or Gujarat?”

Sonal Ved. Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine.

More humane chicken breeding would cost consumers 1% extra

Melting Potatoes “Melting potatoes is the ultimate roasted potato recipe. Add a flavorful stock while in the oven and the roasting veg turns pillowy soft.”

History and Archaeology

Teeth Offer Window Into Neanderthal Childhoods

George Washington Writes to the First Jewish Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island: “The Government… Gives to Bigotry No Sanction, to Persecution No Assistance” (1790)

Washington wrote:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. — George Washington 1790 letter to the “the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island,”

Science and Nature

Scientists finally confirm the Milky Way has a supermassive black hole

Scientists Have Just Named 17 New Sea Slug Species, and They’re All Fabulous

The Dawn spacecraft exploring the asteroid belt has gone dark see also: Dusk for Dawn: NASA’s mission to Vesta and Ceres has ended

It’s Over For Kepler. The Most Successful Planet Hunter Ever Built is Finally out of Fuel and Has Just Been Shut Down.


Stephen King is really going after Ted Cruz on Twitter


Apple, Google, Facebook, and others push back on Trump transgender policy

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Illustrated Guide Offers Resources for LGBTQ Muslim Youth

The Muslim Youth Leadership Council at Advocates for Youth developed “I’m Muslim and I Might Not Be Straight” for LGBTQ peers who don’t see themselves reflected in the broader LGBTQ community.

One of the Oldest Online RPG Communities Banned Pro-Trump Speech

RPGnet, one of the oldest RPG communities on the internet, has banned pro-Trump speech from its message board. “We are banning support of Donald Trump or his administration on the RPGnet forums,” forum administrators wrote in a public post announcing the new policy. “This is because his public comments, policies, and the makeup of his administration are so wholly incompatible with our values that formal political neutrality is not tenable.”

Elsewhere for October 27, 2018

You should read this for 4/8/2018:

Art and Film

Introduce Your Kid to This Database of Paper Airplanes

Apple’s one-of-a-kind invitation art The art for the 350 invitation sent to journalists regarding the October 30th Apple event in Brooklyn, N.Y was different for each invitation. They’re all shown here.

Books, Writing, and Language

Browsing the Stacks: A Photo Appreciation of Libraries Some stunning and amazing libraries photographed, from all over the world. Much as I love my local public library in Seattle, there are many wonderful and beautiful libraries elsewhere.

Education and Academe

Via The Chronicle: What the ‘Grievance Studies’ Hoax Means

Does the hoax identify something uniquely rotten in gender and sexuality studies, or could it just as easily have targeted other fields? Is it a salutary correction or a reactionary hit job? And what does it portend for already imperiled fields? The Chronicle Review asked scholars from a variety of disciplines.

Via TLS: Tim Crane The peer review industry: implausible and outrageous

Browsing the Stacks: A Photo Appreciation of Libraries Some stunning and amazing libraries photographed, from all over the world.

Food and Drink

Grand Street Hot Toddy Cocktail “This low-alcohol drink mixes chamomile tea, amaro and sweet vermouth into a warm easy-sipping cocktail.”

History and Archaeology

The Hobby Lobby-funded Bible Museum says five of its Dead Sea Scrolls are fakes

Archaeologists discover a 2,400-year-old shipwreck, perfectly preserved

Ancient Stories Could Be More Fact Than Fiction

The Tjapwurung, an Aboriginal people in what is now southern Australia, shared the story of this bird hunt from generation to generation across an unbelievably large slice of time—many more millennia than one might think possible. The birds (most likely the species with the scientific name Genyornis newtoni) memorialized in this tale are now long extinct.

Discovery of Ancient Spearpoints in Texas Has Some Archaeologists Questioning the History of Early Americas

Archaeologists have discovered two previously unknown forms of spearpoint technology at a site in Texas. The triangular blades appear to be older than the projectile points produced by the Paleoamerican Clovis culture, an observation that’s complicating our understanding of how the Americas were colonized—and by whom.

Science and Nature

Magnificent “Voyager of the Moons” GIF from Cassini’s images from Jupiter and Saturn

Kevin M. Gill, a software engineer and data wrangler at NASA-JPL, created the fantastic video below “using still images taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its flyby of Jupiter and while at Saturn.”

The New Science of Sex and Gender


‘It’s OK to be ourselves’: Atlanta’s black LGBT community in their own words


NASA brings a Hubble gyro back to life after a seven-year hibernation



Groping suspect says 💩🔥💰 said it was OK to grab women

Why the Trump Administration’s New Gender Definition Worries Doctors “Discrimination against trans people is rife in the medical field, and it could get even worse if sex is defined as unchangeable.” Trump’s gender policy is both cruel and scientifically bankrupt

The administration’s definition of sex isn’t grounded in science. Even outside of transgender people, medical notions of gender rarely fit into two absolute, immutable, and mutually exclusive categories. There are lots of well-documented conditions where a person’s gender diverges from what their genes or genitals would indicate.

Trump’s midterms strategy: Lying his ass off to scare white people into voting Republican

Women’s Work

New Online: Diarist Documents Eventful Times on the Confederate Home Front

Women and girls are harassed ‘relentlessly’ from a young age, government report says

Women and girls are enduring street harassment “so frequently” that it is normalised to become “a routine part of everyday life,” a new government report has found.

See also:

The Trump administration says there are two sexes. The science says they’re wrong.

For example, babies with male chromosomes (XY) can can be born with testes but ambiguous genitalia, which can raise questions of gender assignment. Some women naturally produce lots of testosterone. People born with two XX chromosomes — who are typically female — may have a specific gene for male genitalia. And some people live for decades unaware that they share attributes of both sexes.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Plants For Birds

Bring birds to your home today by growing native plants. With Audubon’s Native Plant Database, you can find the best plants for the birds in your area. Growing bird-friendly plants will attract and protect the birds you love while making your space beautiful, easy to care for, and better for the environment. Explore all of our native plant resources here

How to be an ally who stands with transgender people

Stephen King sells film rights for story to Welsh teenagers for $1

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