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.

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

Education

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.”

Society

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.

Technology

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.

DonorsChoose.org: 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

Education

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

Society

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.”

 

Technology

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