February 20, 2019

Sending children via U.S. mail is strictly forbidden (since 1913)


Caption from the Smithsonian Institution's flickr:

Uniformed Letter Carrier with Child in Mailbag

[In 1900] this city letter carrier posed for a humorous photograph with a young boy in his mailbag. After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.

[via Melissa Bell]

February 20, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Free Solo"

At long last, available on Apple TV.

Words fail.

Just. Watch. It.

I read so much about this climb before I saw the movie, I was in perfect fettle for finally seeing the magnificent achievement unfold.

You can too.

February 20, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Probably the best cat-themed door knocker ever


I won't argue.

Looks like it would have been right at home in Pompeii.

[via Under The Paw and Jeri Dansky]

February 20, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Red October Salt & Pepper Shakers

Red october shakers

Remember a few years ago when salt & pepper shakers caught my fancy and I featured original takes regularly?

What happened to that jones?

Not a clue.

A pair of ceramic shakers that look like submarine periscopes, measuring 3.94"H x 1.18"W.

$10 (and no — I'm not gonna say it.... you want it, ask for it. That's why I have a Comments section. Even if 90% of the time it doesn't work but instead takes you to a dumb 404 Page Not Found).

February 20, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 19, 2019

Where the Dolmens are: Part 2


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Yesterday's 4:01 p.m. post about the spread of dolmen building in Europe featured a link to University of Gothenburg prehistoric archaeologist Bettina Schulz Paulsson's original scientific paper, published in the journal PNAS on February 11, 2019, on which the New York Times article was based.

Among the paper's figures is the superb map above, illustrating how the culture and techniques spread.

Map caption:


Map showing the hypothetical route of the megalithic expansion in three main phases (red−green−yellow), periods of megalithic stasis (brown−white), and episode of a megalithic Mediterranean revival (orange) in the second millennium cal BC, with the estimated start of megalithic graves in the different European regions at 95% probability (68% probability in brackets). Italic bold type is used for date ranges of the posterior density estimates based on samples from megalithic graves, regular bold type is used for simple calibrated radiocarbon dates from megalithic graves, and regular italic type is used for the probabilities of the posterior density estimates associated with the earliest cultural material in the megalithic graves.

February 19, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First-ever MRI of a tarantula's beating heart

From Ann Chin's ScientificAmerican.com post : "A tarantula's small beating heart has been imaged for the first time and revealed in real time with the help of a specialized MRI. Edinburgh University researchers used scanners built for medical research on rodents at the Glasgow Experimental MRI Centre to see into the living arachnid's gut as well."

"The team colored the MRI images to highlight the tarantula's ticker, visible as lighter colors in the posterior part of the body. The image was acquired one slice at a time moving up the length of the spider's heart. In some of the slices — 5% to 10% — the heart seemed to beat twice instead of once, suggesting that the tarantula might experience sudden unpredictable fluctuations in its heart rate at times, or 'double beating.'"

The video up top shows the tarantula's beating heart, with darker areas being cardiac tissue and brighter areas circulating blood.


In the image above, the tarantula's heart, located in the spider's abdomen, is the elongated yellow region pointing to the lower right corner of the graphic.



3-D maximum intensity projection of a tarantula.

February 19, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Peeled Peas — Appealing?


That question was the central focus of Rowley Leigh's "On Cookery" column in the July 1, 2006 Financial Times (FT).

Investigating, Leigh (above) learned that fine Lebanese restaurants peel their chickpeas (garbanzo beans to those in the U.S.) "before pounding them into an incredibly silky hummus."

Who knew?

Here's his piece.


The appeal of peeling

To peel or not to peel, that is the nagging question that troubles chefs and, just occasionally, the home cook. When it comes to the paring, shaping and peeling of vegetables there is always a bourn beyond which few will cross. I know many domestic cooks who will not peel a potato or, when forced to do so, set about the task with a knife and therefore throw half the potato — and most of its nutrients — away. Personally, I disapprove of any attempts to pass off unpeeled potatoes — with the honourable and laborious exception of scraping new potatoes — as any kind of workmanship. "Home fries" and the like are concepts dreamt up by accountants and lazy chefs rather than by a conscientious cook seeking to elicit extra flavour.

Carrots, likewise, come under the same categorical imperative, as do all roots and tubers. But it is with pulses that culinary certainties start to waver. By and large, broad beans, unless very young and small, need to be peeled because as the beans develop, the skins become increasingly tough and bitter. At home, guests are always surprised to see me peeling broad beans and think this extraordinarily painstaking and dedicated. A technique of nicking the blanched beans with the thumbnail and popping them out is soon acquired and once the habit is formed it would seem heretical not to peel the beans, the result being so much superior in tenderness and sweetness.

So far so very good. However, Chris Galvin and Andre Garrett, taking over the Windows restaurant in the Hilton in Park Lane, have raised the bar somewhat. Taking their cue from Pierre Gagnaire and Guy Savoy in Paris, they peel their peas. I thought the petits pois a la Francaise, despite the heretical inclusion of both bacon and carrots, that I was enjoying were exceptionally sweet but did not notice, until my dining companion pointed it out, that I was indeed eating peas that had been, each and every one, peeled. I was mortified by the prospect of a mountain of peas that would now have to be peeled as well as podded. The problem with being a purist is that you can never be purist enough: there is always a new generation of even greater purists just behind you.

Discussing this pea peeling issue with another chef, the delightful Jeremy Lee of The Blueprint Café, he told me that the finer Lebanese restaurants peeled their chickpeas before pounding them into an incredibly silky hummus. It seemed that there was no end of peeling to be done. Nightmares of peeling lentils and split peas, rice even, began to fill my thoughts. Luckily sanity was resumed with a quite exceptional dinner at The Castle Hotel in Taunton. I did not dare tell the brilliant and genial chef, Richard Guest, about my pea anxieties.


Leigh was the chef at the highly-regarded Kensington Place restaurant in London, besides being an award-winning writer: he was the 2006 winner of the prestigious Glenfiddich Food & Drink Award for Cookery Writing for his work in FT weekend.

February 19, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Narcissus of Pompeii

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From the Guardian:


Stunningly preserved fresco of Narcissus discovered in Pompeii

Archaeologists working in a richly decorated house in ancient Pompeii have discovered a stunningly preserved fresco (above) depicting the mythological hunter Narcissus enraptured by his own reflection in a pool of water.

The figure of Narcissus, who according to the myth fell in love with his own image to the point that he melted from the fire of passion burning inside him, was a fairly common theme in the first-century Roman city.

The discovery, announced on Thursday, is in the atrium of a house where, back in November, excavations brought to light another fresco that portrays an erotic scene from the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan.

"The beauty of these rooms has led us to modify the project and continue the excavation," said the site's director, Alfonsina Russo.

"In the future this will allow us to open at least part of this domus to the public. Its excavation has been possible in the context of the broader intervention of stabilization and re-profiling of the excavation fronts, overseen by the Great Pompeii Project."

The ancient city of Pompeii was destroyed in C.E.79 by an eruption that killed more than 2,000 people.

The ruins have become one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world.

The city, which attracts almost 4 million visitors a year, has come a long way since 2013, when UNESCO threatened to place it on its list of world heritage sites in peril unless Italian authorities improved its preservation.

On October 16, 2018, archaeologists discovered an engraving that suggested the eruption occurred in October of C.E. 79, not August as had been previously thought.

Surprises unearthed in recent months include the remains of a horse and a home with an elaborate shrine.


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More here.

February 19, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rule of Thirds Finder


From the website:



This pocket-size gazing device is based on the Rule of Thirds, which breaks an image into nine equal parts using two equidistant vertical lines and two equidistant horizontal lines.


This ratio is often used by artists to create compelling compositions.

It encourages artists to avoid placing the subject of their image in the center.


Use the Rule of Thirds Finder to add visual tension to your compositions.


Features and Details:

• 3.1" x 3.1" x 0.11"

• Laser-etched acrylic

• Clear, Orange, or Green

• Designed by Parsons & Charlesworth



February 19, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 18, 2019

Dolmen di Sa Coveccada

Fooled u

Pictured above, it's an ancient megalithic grave in Sardinia, Italy.

From the New York Times:


Ancient European Stone Monuments Said to Originate in Northwest France

Research on Stone Age tombs throughout Europe offers a new answer to an old debate on where and when the iconic stone works were first built.

Thousands of years ago, megaliths began to appear in Europe — standing stones, dolmens, stone circles.

They vary from single stones to complexes like Stonehenge.

There are about 35,000 such monuments in Europe, many along the Atlantic coast of France and Spain, in England, Ireland, Scandinavia, and throughout the Mediterranean.

They attract both tourists and archaeologists, who have spent a century debating how the knowledge to build such monuments spread.

One idea suggested that this cultural change came from the Near East, and spread west along coastal routes, perhaps by a priestly caste.

Later theories suggested techniques may have developed independently in different locales.

But a scientist who analyzed 2,410 radiocarbon dates of megaliths and their surroundings reported on Monday that the first such tombs appeared in France, about 6,500 years ago, and then spread along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, as well as to England, Ireland, and Scandinavia.

"It took me 10 years of my life for this research," said the scientist, Bettina Schulz Paulsson, a prehistoric archaeologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

She combed the literature in 11 languages, assessed the validity of the dating tests, and used a statistical method called Bayesian analysis to narrow the dates further.

She reported her findings in the journal PNAS, concluding that the building of megalithic graves appeared and spread along the coast of France, Spain and Portugal, and the Mediterranean within a period of 200 to 300 years.

Brittany megalith 1

[Above, a megalithic enclosure on Er Lannic Island in the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany, France]

Kristian Kristiansen, also at Gothenburg University but not involved in Dr. Schulz Paulsson's study, said the research was a real breakthrough," providing for the first time both the origin and the evidence for a coastal, maritime spread of the technology.

That in itself is significant because it suggests that people of the time had boats and skill to travel along the coasts and quickly spread the megalithic method.

Dr. Schulz Paulsson found that the oldest megalithic graves dated from about 4800 to 4000 B.C. in northwest France and other areas like the Channel Islands, Corsica and Sardinia.

But northwest France is the only one of these areas that showed evidence of earthen grave monuments that preceded the first megaliths, dating back to around 5000 B.C.

These graves, in the geological area known as the Paris basin, indicate the beginnings of monument building that are lacking in the other areas.

February 18, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I finally figured out why I like making bookofjoe

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It hit me last week, while I was doing what I do backstage to create a post (in fact, the one that will follow this one in two hours. But I digress.).

What makes me happy and lets me go on for hours without a conscious thought that I might want to be doing anything else is the deep pleasure and satisfaction I get from making countless decisions about language, images, layout, links, overall look and feel, and a zillion other small details that go into each and every post.

FunFact: I've created 30,700 posts as of 12:17 p.m. on Tuesday, February 12, since I began here in 2004.

You couldn't look it up — but I did (top).

I did the math: that's about 2,000/year = about 40/week = an average of 6-7/day.

And that includes the dead zone of 2014 and 2015 when I was profoundly depressed, to the extent that I could barely keep Gray Cat's litter box tidy.

An occasional brief post every couple days served as proof of life during those dark times.

But I digress again.

I wonder how many more posts I've got in me before they pull my cold dead hands from the keyboard.


February 18, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mr. Mxyztplk v Joe Btfsplk — Vowel-Deprived Throwdown: Who came first?


From Shawn Zehnder Rossi comes a characteristically deep diving investigation of the little-known origins of two great vowel-deprived characters of the 20th century, Mr. Mxyztplk (above) and Joe Btfsplk (below).


Her report follows — and you can bet your bottom dollar that not one word has been.


Mr. Mxyztplk vs. Joe Btfsplk

Who came first... Mr. Mxyztplk vs. Joe Btfsplk?

Hi, Mr. Miller. I am the bookofjoe staff person who has been assigned to your interesting question.

Joe preceded Mr. Mxyztplk. Joe Btfsplk's first appearance was June 11, 1942. Mxyztplk's ((roughly pronounced Mix-yez-pit-lick, also nicknamed Mxy) first appeared in September of 1944. Joe's creator, Al Capp, pronounced Btfsplk with a "raspberries" sound, also known as a "Bronx cheer."

Mxyzptlk appeared originally as a small bald man in a purple suit, green bow tie and purple derby hat. This was changed to a futuristic looking orange outfit with purple trim in the mid-1950s, although the hat remained. At around this time the spelling of Mxyzptlk's name changed (by mistake) to "Mxyz ptlk."

From Wikipedia:
After the establishment of DC Comics' multiverse in the 1960s, it was later explained that the purple-suited Mxyztplk lived in the fifth dimension connected to Earth-Two and the orange-costumed Mxyzptlk in the fifth dimension connected to Earth-One. The Earth-One version was also retconned into Superboy stories as Master Mxyzptlk.

From www.supermanhomepage.com:
The imp known as Mr. Mxyztplk first appeared in our dimension in Superman #30 (1st series, 1944) in a story by Jerry Siegel with art by John Sikela. For those who haven't seen the original story, you can find it in The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told trade paperback. The bald little fellow in the purple suit and green bowtie creates all kind of havoc — including animating a naked statue he calls McGurk. Mxy describes himself as a "court-jester" from another dimension. The not very bright imp laughingly tells Superman that there is no way he can be tricked into saying the magic word "Klptzyxm" that will return him to his own dimension. Oops. Saying the word, Mxy vanishes (my nickname — don't expect me to keep spelling the full name!!)

A note at the end of the tale says, "If you enjoyed the antics of Mr. Mxyztplk and would like to read of his further encounters with Superman, let us know on a penny postcard." Obviously, Mxy was a big hit and returned many times.

The imp's name was later changed to Mxyzptlk (and for the consonant-challenged among you — the letters "t" and "p" are reversed). He had a long history of antagonizing Superman, supposedly every 90 days, until Superman inevitably tricked him into saying his name backwards. This restored everything back to normal and banished Mxy back to the Fifth Dimension for another 90 days. Until the Crisis On Infinite Earths series rewrote DC history.

February 18, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I've tweeted 10,000 photos and videos


I'm all excited, thinking I'll be getting a congratulatory DM from Jack Dorsey any minute now.

The first 10,000 are the hardest.

Interesting, at least to me: I've created about 30,000 posts for this blog since it began in 2004, compared to 78,300 tweets and 10,000 photos and videos uploaded since I joined Twitter in 2006. 

February 18, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Growing Necklace

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From the website:


Designed for people in metropolitan areas, the Growing Necklace — a mix of jewelry and plant, couture and organism — is a chance to take a little bit of greenery with you.

Like any plant, the necklace will need to be watered and nurtured to be at its best.

For best results, water every five weeks (be careful not to water too much).

If properly maintained, the Icelandic moss will stay green for 8-12 months.

Features and Details:

• Hand made of fine silver in Iceland

• Designed by Hafsteinn Júlíusson

• Necklace length: 23.6"


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Round or Rectangular pot: $199.

February 18, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 17, 2019

Where is it?

Fooled u

Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: bigger than a bread box.

Another: older than you.

February 17, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

« February 18, 2019