Elsewhere for February 10, 2019

You should read this for 2/10/2019:

Books, Writing, and Language

Ian Parker via The New Yorker “Dan Mallory, who writes under the name A. J. Finn, went to No. 1 with his début thriller, The Woman in the Window. His life contains even stranger twists.” A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions

Nicola Griffith interviewed by Alexis Smith for Moss

Education

Why study English? We’re poorer in every sense without it

Similarly in the US, a longterm decline in the popularity of humanities courses accelerated sharply after the financial crisis of 2008/09; having accounted for 22% of all US degrees in the late 1960s, they now make up less than 5%. Writing in the Atlantic last year, historian Benjamin Schmidt called this a “crisis”, arguing that the cause is students’ anxieties about the job market and an increasingly instrumental view of higher education as a means to boost future earnings (even if graduate employment statistics provide limited justification for the switch from arts to sciences).

Food and Drink

Should I Drink Red Wine?

It’s from 2015, but it’s still interesting in terms of the potential health benefits of red wine in moderation (resveratrol) vs the calories.

A Winter Garden

Sarah has farmed seaweed for eight years. However, this enterprise, Springtide Seaweed, is her first try at running a complete business. In a licensed 35 acres of mud-bottomed bay, she and her partner puzzle out the best ways to raise their crops, which need cold clean water to thrive. Their seaweeds cling to ropes, horizontal long lines that hang 6 feet down. Each species requires specific light intensities. The trick is to have some of them throw a flickering shade onto others, but not too much, and to allow them all to absorb the amount of light they need, but not enough for the winter sun to scorch them.

Wine could help solve writer’s block, says study That’s not, at all, what teh study actually says, of course.

Dorie Greenspan’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Rose Levy Beranbaum : The Chewiest, Crackliest Molasses Cookies Have a Genius Little Secret

History and Archaeology

New article ponders the mystery of carved stone balls

Over 200 carved stone balls have been found in Scotland, the size of oranges and each distinctively decorated. They were made in the Neolithic, and no one knows why.

See the pictures and links in the article; these are carefully, often intricately carved from stone.

Science and Nature

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Society

From Newsweek: Measles Outbreak: Children Of Anti-Vaxxers Are Asking How To Get Vaccinated Without Their Parents Knowing

Ex-CIA and FBI director threatened by scammer, then helps put him in prison

Exclusive: Thousands of Black Votes in Georgia Disappeared and No One Can Explain It

As if it were a too on-the-nose movie plot, Abrams’ Republican opponent in the race for governor was Brian Kemp. As Georgia’s longtime secretary of state, Kemps presided over the state’s elections, voting machines and vote tallying. And as a vote suppressor, Kemp’s record of disenfranchising voters was unmatched.

Technology

How did Apple’s AirPods go from mockery to millennial status symbol?

Will Chinese firm’s stake in Reddit normalise censorship?

The creation of concentration camps for a million Uighurs in Xinjiang has not been enough to persuade any of the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs receiving funds from Chinese companies to refuse the cash. Neither is it apparently enough of a deterrent to stop the US companies investing in China to stop their plans to enter the market.

Women’s Work

She made history as a Navy pilot. An all-female squadron just flew over her funeral “Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who died Jan. 24, broke barriers throughout her career, opening doors for other women”

H/T Beth: American women are 50% more likely to die in childbirth than their mothers

Furthermore, while the maternal-death rate has fallen in most developed nations and has improved in many developing ones, it has risen in the US.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

A United States Government (USG) Memorandum Released by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley to NBC News Shows According to Him that the USG: “planned to traumatize children and intentionally create a humanitarian crisis”

Trump appears to mock Elizabeth Warren with genocide joke and people are livid

Trump’s properties routinely employed (and abused) undocumented Latinx workers, including dozens from a single Costa Rican town

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Via WIRED: Meet The Blind Youtubers Making The Internet More Accessible

“Every time I say I’m visually impaired,” says Casey Greer. “someone will try to shut me down, saying ‘Well then how did you type this comment?!’ It feels silly that in 2019, I always have to explain that blind people use and love the internet just as much as anybody else.”

Elsewhere for February 2, 2019

You should read this for 2/2/2019:

Art and Film

Stunning Trailer for Apollo 11 Brings Us Never-Before-Seen Footage of the Moon Mission

Last year, the filmmakers behind Apollo 11 were discussing making a documentary to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, when an archivist informed them that extensive, unseen 70mm footage of the mission existed at the National Archives. The footage became the basis for the documentary Apollo 11 and now we’re getting our first look at it with a new trailer.

H/T Sylvia: These Australian artists are making waves with work that explores the complex, contested issue of identity

Books, Writing, and Language

Frederick Douglass’s Irish odyssey

In spring 1845, Douglass published his first book– Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. The memoir stirred fresh hostilities. To avoid physical harm or being forcibly returned (by bounty-hungry “slave-catchers”) to his bondage in Maryland, it was decided that, until things cooled down, he would leave the United States for a while, for a hastily and incompletely planned lecture tour of the British Isles.

Education

In a Children’s Theater Program, Drama Over a Peanut Allergy

The conflict over accommodating a child’s allergy turned into a legal battle that highlights the isolation that people with food allergies often face

Food and Drink

Blend This Crazy-Looking Citrus Right Into Your Booze

Buddha’s hand—so called because it looks like a hand with (too many fingers)—is a fragrant fruit that’s pretty much all zest and pith, making it good for infusing (and zesting) and not much else.

But it’s wonderful for enhancing gin or vodka, and making your own infusion.

H/T Jeff: Lifelike ‘Succulent Cakes’ Turn Prickly Plants into Delicious Desserts

History and Archaeology

New Thoughts on Neolithic Artifacts From England

The Folkton Drums, a set of 4,000-year-old decorated chalk cylinders discovered more than 100 years ago in a child’s grave in northern England, and a similar carved chalk cylinder recovered more recently near England’s southern coast, may have been replicas of wooden measuring devices employed by Neolithic monument builders, according to a Live Science report.

European colonizers killed so many Native Americans that it changed the global climate, researchers say

European settlers killed 56 million indigenous people over about 100 years in South, Central and North America, causing large swaths of farmland to be abandoned and reforested, researchers at University College London, or UCL, estimate. The increase in trees and vegetation across an area the size of France resulted in a massive decrease in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, according to the study.

Before this study, some scientists had argued the temperature change in the 1600s, called the Little Ice Age, was caused only by natural forces.
But by combining archaeological evidence, historical data and analysis of carbon found in Antarctic ice, the UCL researchers showed how the reforestation — directly caused by the Europeans’ arrival — was a key component of the global chill, they said.

You can find the study Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492 at Science Direct.

Science and Nature

Here it is, the high resolution photo of MU69 We’ve all been waiting for.

On December 31st, 2018, NASA’s New Horizons mission made history by being the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) named Ultima Thule (2014 MU69). This came roughly two and a half years after New Horizons became the first mission in history to conduct a flyby of Pluto. Much like the encounter with Pluto, the probe’s rendezvous with Ultima Thule led to a truly stunning encounter image.

Society

Warren Apologizes To Cherokee Nation For DNA Test

Technology

Goodbye Big Five

Reporter Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple from getting my money, data, and attention, using a custom-built VPN. Here’s what happened.

This is week 3 of the six weeks of Blocking the Big 5: I Cut Google Out Of My Life. It Screwed Up Everything

Apple Shows Facebook Who Has the Power in an App Dispute

The situation stemmed from a dispute after Facebook violated Apple’s rules by publicly distributing a research app that allowed it to snoop on users’ online activity. When Apple discovered the transgression this week, it revoked Facebook’s special access to apps and updates that run on its iPhone software.

See also:

Apple blocks Google from running its internal iOS apps and from TechCrunch’s Josh Constine: We dismantle Facebook’s memo defending its “Research” See also this solid piece with a timeline by TidBITS’ Josh Centers: Certificate Wars: A Quick Rundown of Apple’s Dustup with Facebook and Google

Women’s Work

H/T Bronwen: Hidden women of history: Kathleen McArthur, the wildflower woman who took on Joh Bjelke-Petersen

The unlikely leader of this campaign was a wildflower painter named Kathleen McArthur, who led the Caloundra branch of an environmental group the Australian newspaper called “the most militant of conservation cells”.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

See this Twitter thread from Incredible reporting by @partlowj @Fahrenthold provides the best look yet at how Trump’s private business has relied on the labor of undocumented workers — even as he railed they were stealing jobs from Americans.@mateagold of the Washington Post: https://twitter.com/mateagold/status/1089283908208902145

Incredible reporting by @partlowj @Fahrenthold provides the best look yet at how Trump’s private business has relied on the labor of undocumented workers — even as he railed they were stealing jobs from Americans.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Patton Oswalt brings help to ailing man who trolled him on Twitter

H/T Lisa C: Meet the Chicago woman who rented hotel rooms for the homeless during deep freeze

Elsewhere for January 26, 2019

You should read this for 1/27/2019:

Art and Film

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the History of Dance, Gender, and American Identity

But while many in the media celebrated the sight of a youthful Ocasio-Cortez and her Boston University pals dancing together, missing from these conversations was an appreciation of the role that dancing bodies have long played in American political life.

The Treasure Behind the Wall

Books, Writing, and Language

I’ve been reading and enjoying the Phryne Fisher murder mysteries by Australian writer Kerry Greenwood. They’re fun well-written well-researched historic post World War I mysteries set in Australia (mostly) featuring a female detective who has been favorably compared to a feminist Lord Peter Wimsey (Dorothy Sayers).

Education

Who Wants to Be a College President?

Food and Drink

Via Wirecutter: Everything You Need to Start Baking Bread

History and Archaeology

What I’m Reading: An Interview With Historian Stacy D. Fahrenthold

A Tyrant’s Temper Tantrum

King Charles I of England, frustrated at the limitations of his otherwise powerful position, decided to dissolve Parliament in March of 1629 and to clap several of the opposition’s leaders in irons. The monarch had come to an impasse over issues as lofty as religious conformity and as mundane as the regulations concerning tonnage, eventually finding it easier to simply dissolve the gathering than to negotiate with them. Historian Michael Braddick explains that the “King was not willing to assent to necessary measures” in governance, and that Charles was intent on “upholding his right to withhold consent” as he saw it, believing that “without that power he was no longer a king in a meaningful sense.” Charles was a committed partisan of the divine right of kings, truly believing himself to be ennobled to rule by fiat, and regarding legislators as at best an annoyance, and at worst as actively contravening the rule of God.

Science and Nature

An Indian researcher uncovered why some lizards have stripes and others don’t

Gemologist Finds Insect Trapped in Opal Instead of Amber

Society

Socially conscious investing has quadrupled in the past decade

In short, what constitutes socially responsible investing is often in the eye of the beholder. Acceptable criteria is subjective and broad, spanning the gamut of investors’ personal values. But stringency may be an effective insurance policy in the long run: environmental or governance disasters often come with high associated losses—not least in terms of public relations.

Atlantic Readers Respond to Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’ “In the August 1963 issue, The Atlantic published King’s famous letter under the title “The Negro Is Your Brother.” Readers’ responses were largely positive.”

H/T Jeff Carlson: This Seattle concierge has secrets he won’t tell

Technology

Via Stephen Hackett of RelayFM and 512Pixels:  Twitter is Over 

I like my little community on Twitter, but I know it is a hellscape of abuse for many. I use it to promote my work and to talk with my audience, but every time I open my replies, I brace myself for something terrible to be there, waiting for me to see it.

Digital detoxes are a solution looking for a problem

Research often tends to treat all technology use as equal. This assumption overlooks the fact that we have a different experience with each kind of technology we use. For example, mindlessly scrolling Instagram is very different to chatting on WhatsApp, or using a fitness tracker.

Women’s Work

The night I was mistaken for a call girl

They had relegated me to the corner by the loos simply because I was an unaccompanied woman.

Via Alison Smith for Granta: Her Left Hand, The Darkness

H/T Bronwen: The two Lucys: Kiwi botanists in their brothers’ shorts “Two trailblazing women, both called Lucy, explored some of New Zealand’s most remote places in the name of botanical knowledge.”

California’s new surgeon general changed the way we understand childhood trauma

Years of treating underprivileged kids in Bayview-Hunters Point, one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods, had shown her that the kids with the most severe history of trauma often exhibited the worst symptoms.

That realization would lead her to change the way she treated patients—and to become one of the chief advocates in the US medical community about how screening kids for early adversity can help them become healthier adults.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Via Medium: Vicky Alvear Shecter What Happened When a Trump Supporter Challenged Me About the Wall

The US bought $108,000 worth of ammunition to fend off an unarmed migrant caravan

There’s More Here Than People Realize

With Michael Cohen’s decision to postpone his testimony before Congress, people are starting to focus on President Trump’s repeated attacks on Cohen’s unnamed “father-in-law”. It is outrageous that a sitting President would repeatedly threaten anyone with legal action, especially in a case when it is done with the intention of squelching testimony against him. But this isn’t just out of the blue character assassination.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Librarian Honors a Dying Tree by Turning It Into a Little Free Library

H/T Lisa Carnell: How to assist federal workers impacted by the shutdown

Hundreds of thousands of government employees — many still required to come into work — are turning to food banks and other programs to make ends meet.
The national park system, airports, and even the space program have all been impacted. Meanwhile, average citizens are stepping up to help those in government service who are not getting paid. They are also volunteering to take care of national institutions that ordinarily rely on government employees.
There are many opportunities for you to make a difference.

Half a million rank-and-file Marriott employees are now watching for sex traffickers

Elsewhere for January 20, 2019

You should read this for 1/20/2019:

Art and Film

Books, Writing, and Language

Extraordinary photos of Jane Austen’s family are discovered in old photo album bought on eBay – and their lives were just as dramatic as some of novelist’s most famous characters

Food and Drink

Via WGBH Boston: Julia Child’s Quiche Loraine

What America Hears When The Press Makes Fun Of The Way Trump Eats Maybe the press should focus more on the fact that Federal workers aren’t being paid. Instead we get this:

As much as Trump genuinely enjoys burgers, this born-and-bred member of the elite knows this kind of absurd “man of the people” posturing endears him to a certain US demographic. The same demographic most likely to be afflicted by the out-of-control global obesity epidemic, leading to potentially life-threatening conditions, most of which won’t be covered by their healthcare plans and which the likes of Trump would condemn as self-inflicted. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem quite so charming that Trump served junk food at the White House.

History and Archaeology

Europe’s Largest Hoard Of Copper Age Axes, Ax Hammers Discovered In Northeast Bulgaria

22 copper axe heads; they appear to be unused, which suggests that they may have had ritual or prestige value.

The tools are dated to the Late Chalcolithic (Late Copper Age), more specifically, 4,500 – 4,200 BC.

Science and Nature

The oceans are warming faster than we thought, and scientists suggest we brace for impact

H/T mrsmig Video: Fox, romping in the snow

Society

A third of US workers have left a job due to caregiving responsibilities

Women’s Work

This is what the Women’s March actually wants

The Women’s Agenda details 24 federal policy priorities for which the organization will advocate. They include universal healthcare, passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, ending war, the expansion of voting rights, ending the student debt crisis, protecting the rights of trans women, and a move toward renewable energy.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Via Dan Balz, Correspondent The Washington Post: ’Would you like to speak to the president?’

PARIS — “Would you like to speak to the president?

That was about the last question I expected from a stranger on a Friday night in Paris.

Via The Atlantic: Impeach Donald Trump

On january 20, 2017, Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.

Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.

See Also: Unthinkable: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

H/T cbenoi1: Canadian Air Traffic Controllers Buy Pizza For American Colleagues Affected By U.S. Government ShutdownIf employers aren’t acknowledging the demands their workers face at home, they probably aren’t managing the fallout very effectively.

Elsewhere for January 12, 2019

You should read this for 12/12/2019:

Art and Film

Books, Writing, and Language

H/T Lisa Carnell: Letter of Recommendation: Old English

I’ve got no interest in establishing any personal connection between their culture and mine. That’s for the historians and the fantasists. I’m just interested in the words. There are ways of expressing feeling in the Old English kennings that do not exist in the formal English of today. 

Original Drawings by J.R.R. Tolkien Are Coming to New York’s Morgan Library

A collection of British fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s original drawings and illustrations will make a rare appearance in the U.S. this month. As AM New York reports, works from the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries will be traveling across the pond to New York City, where they’ll go on display at The Morgan Library & Museum.
This is a really wonderful opportunity; go if you can. January 25 to May 12, 2019.

Does It Pay to Be a Writer? “The decline in earnings are largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market.”

Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore. According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

7 Publishing Insights Revealed By Last Year’s Top 100 Bestselling Books See also The 100 bestselling books of 2018 which partly inspired the previous link; it’s an article about 2018 publishing trends based on Nielsen Bookscan 31/12/17-8/12/18

Food and Drink

Real Maine Baked Beans

Baked beans, cooked slowly in the oven for hours in a covered bean pot, are a Maine tradition. So are yellow-eye beans.
First, let’s just say that Yellow Eyes won the most votes, if you will, for the best bean to use. In Maine, those come from State of Maine Beans in a two pound bag at most grocery stores. There were a smattering of Jacobs Cattle, Soldier Beans, Great Northerns, and a few will favor Marafax. A couple mentioned pea beans, but for the most part, Mainers like big beans.

History and Archaeology

Bath Tiles “Brightly colored tiles have been uncovered during excavations in advance of restoration of England’s Bath Abbey.”

Easter Island statues: mystery behind their location revealed

Researchers say they have analysed the locations of the megalithic platforms, or ahu, on which many of the statues known as moai sit, as well as scrutinising sites of the island’s resources, and have discovered the structures are typically found close to sources of fresh water.

Science and Nature

VIA NPR’s Bird Note (H/T Anne B): House Sparrows Can Open Doors

Clues into early development of autism spectrum disorder Neurons from people with autism exhibit different patterns of growth and develop at a faster rate”

Society

One easy New Year’s resolution to help save democracy in 2019: Go to the library

Technology

Via Nieman Lab: Rasmus Kleis Nielsen A Long, Slow Slog, With No One Coming To The Rescue

“Much of the news currently published online is simply not worth paying for. Some of it is hardly worth our fleeting attention, let alone hard-earned cash.”

How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually.

“I love my Mac!” Zoë Smith’s spouse is a new Mac user and as she writes:

I love my Mac, of course. But seeing someone else fall in love too, again, today? Pretty sweet.

Facebook Shared User Data with Other Tech Giants

Women’s Work

Via NPR: What It Looks Like To Have A Record Number Of Women In The House Of Representatives

I Was Pregnant and in Crisis. All the Doctors and Nurses Saw Was an Incompetent Black Woman

“Black babies in the United States die at just over two times the rate of white babies in the first year of their life,” says Arthur James, an OB-GYN at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus. When my daughter died, she and I became statistics.

H/T: Lisa Carnell via NPR: A Blue Clue In Medieval Teeth May Bespeak A Woman’s Artistry Circa A.D. 1000

Work pants and my fight for pocket equality.

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Medievalist Matthew Gabriele: Trump says medieval walls worked. They didn’t. And from another historian, David Perry: Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Muslim youth group cleans up national parks amid government shutdown

Across the country, dozens of their colleagues in the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association were doing the same at national parks closed or partially closed by the shutdown. They cleaned up litter, emptied garbage cans and swept the grounds — from the Everglades National Park in Florida to Joshua Tree, California and the Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio.

Via NPR: Florida Law Restoring The Vote To Former Felons Takes Effect Before the referendum passed

more than 10 percent of Florida’s adult population was not eligible to vote. Desmond Meade who helped organize the referendum campaign says that changed Nov. 6. “We had over 5.1 million voters that voted yes on Amendment 4,” he says. “Not one of those votes was based on hate. Not one of those votes was based on fear, but rather votes of love.”

Elsewhere for January 5, 2019

You should read this for 1/5/2019:

Art and Film

Chip By Chip, Restoring The Damaged Washington National Cathedral

H/T Heather: Wabanaki basketmakers try to save our state’s ash trees — and their traditional craft — from the emerald ash borer.

Books, Writing, and Language

Why you should surround yourself with more books than you’ll ever have time to read An overstuffed bookcase (or e-reader) says good things about your mind.

See also: Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones

Bottleneck at Printers Has Derailed Some Holiday Book Sales

Agents and authors say part of the problem is that publishers and retailers have become more risk averse. Publishers are printing smaller first runs, partly because retailers are ordering fewer copies initially, waiting to see which titles take off to avoid making the wrong bet and getting stuck storing unsold inventory. In the past, it was often easy to get another batch of books printed in a week or two if a title sold unexpectedly well, but these days some publishers say it can take one or two months.

For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain

What the Earliest Texts Say About the Invention of Writing

Food and Drink

The Original Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

This is one version; it makes a batter of sorts. I prefer a much simpler version, that’s about six ounces of hot water, a dash of rum, a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, a small 1/2 teaspoon or so of butter, and a teaspoon of brown sugar or honey.

Top 10 Wines Under $10 For 2018

History and Archaeology

The Modern History of Ornithology Starts With This Inquisitive Medieval Emperor “Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor born on this day in 1194, is remembered for fighting with the Pope so much he was excommunicated, for promoting literature and science in Sicily and for his fascination with birds.”

Science and Nature

More than 50 Australian plant species face extinction within decade ‘Study finds just 12 of the most imperilled species are listed under national environment laws as critically endangered”

The scientists concluded that 55 species were at high risk of extinction within the next 10 years, with fewer than 250 individual plants or only a single population remaining. They found just 12 of the most imperilled species were listed under the EPBC Act as critically endangered and 13 had no listing at all.

Risky business: linking Toxoplasma gondiiinfection and entrepreneurship behaviours across individuals and countries See also: Toxoplasma gondii

H/T Frances: We Need a New Christmas Bird

An ant colony has memories that its individual members don’t have

Society

Those End-Of-The-Year Charitable Donations May Not Help Your Tax Bill

Rick Cohen, with the National Council of Nonprofits in Washington, D.C., estimatesthat charities and nonprofits such as churches, will see big drops in donations in the coming year. The drop in charitable giving could top 20 billion dollars nationwide because more people will take the standard deduction as opposed to itemizing.

‘It’s not fair, not right’: how America treats its black farmers

“The tactics are to strangle the life from all the black farmers, and it’s being done in multiple ways,” says Sanders. “And the US government is as much in on the strangling as any other entity … and has generally been complicit in running hundreds of thousands of black folks off the farm, and destroying their way of life.”

Women’s Work

H/T Frances: The 97-Year-Old Park Ranger Who Doesn’t Have Time for Foolishness “As the oldest career National Park Service ranger, Betty Soskin is unabashed about revealing all of America’s history—and her optimism about our future.”

She also offers a blueprint on how not to despair about our times. “Democracy has been experiencing these periods of chaos since 1776. They come and go,” she says. “And it’s in those periods that democracy is redefined.” When everything seems to be crumbling, we can remold and reset, she believes: “History has been written by people who got it wrong, but the people who are always trying to get it right have prevailed. If that were not true, I would still be a slave like my great-grandmother.”

H/T Jasmin: The female powerhouse who developed 1920s Downtown LA

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Splitting With Trump Over Syria, American Leading ISIS Fight Steps Down

Mr. McGurk, a seasoned diplomat who was considered by many to be the glue holding together the sprawling international coalition fighting the terrorist group, was supposed to retire in February. But according to an email he sent his staff, he decided to move his departure forward to Dec. 31 after Mr. Trump did not heed his own commanders and blindsided America’s allies in the region by abruptly ordering the withdrawal of the 2,000 troops.

Trump EPA Says Mercury Limits On Coal Plants Too Costly, Not ‘Necessary’

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

The ‘angel’ who secretly pays patients’ hospital bills

“That’s why I call this the Angel Project,” he says. “Be the angel you hope to meet.”

Elsewhere for December 22, 2018

You should read this for 12/22/2018:

Art and Film

A neighbor anonymously called Christmas dragons in her yard ‘demonic.’ So she put more up.

Books, Writing, and Language

The ‘Future Book’ Is Here, But It’s Not What We Expected

The Minefield Of Mime: ‘Halt’ To An American Signifies ‘Hi’ To An Arab “Dictionary of Gestures: Expressive Comportments and Movements in Use Around the World by François Caradec reviewed”

Education

DeVos To Rescind Obama-Era Guidance On School Discipline “The recommendations on discipline form part of a broader effort by the Trump administration and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to back away from Obama-era policies aimed at reducing racial disparities in suspensions and expulsions.”

Florida lawmakers mandated armed guards in schools after Parkland. One just killed three people.

Food and Drink

Via Twitter: Hilary Clinton, Hot Saucer, Peppers and Stupid People

In 2016, a host asked Hillary Clinton what’s something she always has in her bag. “Hot sauce,” she said. Critics claimed she said this to pander to black voters because of Beyoncé’s “hot sauce in my bag” lyric.

But she has been talking about hot sauce in her bag for 20+ years.

Irish-American Whiskey Celebrates Shared Heritage

In a nod to both sides of the Atlantic, distillers are blending whiskey from each country, using American wine barrels and reviving old Irish recipes. Explore the world of Irish-American whiskey with these five bottles.

History and Archaeology

Egypt announces discovery of 4,400-year-old tomb

Egypt has announced the discovery of a private tomb belonging to a senior official from the 5th dynasty of the pharaohs, which ruled roughly 4,400 years ago. There are photographs

Science and Nature

Pterosaurs: Fur flies over feathery fossils

Two exceptionally well preserved fossils give a new picture of the pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.
Scientists believe the creatures may have had feathers, and looked something like brown bats with fuzzy wings.
The surprise discovery suggests feathers evolved not in birds, nor dinosaurs, but in more distant times.

H/T to SJS: The Northern Cardinal Is Actually Multiple Species, Evidence Suggests

The actual paper title is: Genomic divergence in allopatric Northern Cardinals of the North American warm deserts is linked to behavioral differentiation. Basically, it’s looking like there are at least two distinct species, separated for c. 1 million years, based on genetics and song behavior.

Society

‘Self-promoters’ do nothing but still get ahead at work

But about one in five teams was a conundrum – where staff appeared to be very engaged, but where teamwork and productivity were poor.
The study found when “lifting the lid” on these groups of workers, that they were undermined by staff who were successfully “gaming the system” but not really getting anything done.
They might constantly appear in a circuit of meetings, or get involved in conversations that were to their own advantage — but apart from playing the corporate culture, it was difficult to see what they actually achieved.

Via BuzzFeed: Hate To Break It To You, But The Amazing Glitter Bomb Package Video Is Pretty Much Staged

This is why we can’t have nice things.

Technology

Via Motherboard: We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites “Personal websites and email can replace most of what people like about Facebook—namely the urge to post about their lives online.

Women’s Work

Gladys West, the ‘hidden figure’ of GPS, inducted into Air Force hall of fame

Life on the land with the Lama Lama rangers – a picture essay

💩🔥💰 Trumpery 💩🔥💰

Amphibian that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump Newly discovered Panama amphibian Dermophis donaldtrumpi buries its head in the sand has been named after 💩🔥💰, because of his comments about climate change.

The small, blind, creature is a type of caecilian that primarily lives underground, and Mr Bell drew an unflattering comparison between its behaviour and Mr Trump’s.
“Burrowing [his] head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change,” [Bell] wrote.

Russian Agents Sought Secret US Treasury Records On Clinton Backers During 2016 Campaign

In an astonishing departure from protocol, documents show that at the same time the requests were being made, Treasury officials were using their government email accounts to send messages back and forth with a network of private Hotmail and Gmail accounts set up by the Russians, rather than communicating through the secure network usually used to exchange information with other countries.

Pay It Forward and Make It Better

Jackets left on lampposts in Inverness for homeless “Winter jackets have been left buttoned and zipped round lampposts in Inverness along with a note inviting any finders in need of a coat to take it.”

Penn Library Will Return 9th-Century Documents Found to Have Been Stolen From Italian Archive

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?”

Education

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.

Society

Is Gender Identity Unique to Humans?

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

Technology

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

Poinsettias

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.