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September 20, 2020

Experts' Experts: When using bubble wrap, the bubbles go on the inside


I was amused the other day when I opened a package from Bluelounge, which makes superb Apple accessories: each of the items I'd ordered had been individually wrapped with bubble wrap — yet the bubbles were on the outside, facing the inside of the shipping box.

Many years ago I had my Crack Research Team©® drill down on this subject and they reported back, after inquiries to a company that makes bubble wrap, that the bubbles are supposed to go on the inside — against the object to be protected — rather than the outside as was the case with my delivery.

I bet most people don't even think about which side goes where and just use the stuff regardless.

But you're not most people.

September 20, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First-ever known photograph of a South Philippine dwarf kingfisher fledgling

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[A fledgling kingfisher, with its distinctive black bill]

From the New York Times:

How an Eye Surgeon Got a Picture of This Rare Pastel Bird

On March 11, Dr. Miguel David De Leon — a vitreoretinal surgeon in Mindanao, the southern island of the Philippines — worked a full morning at the medical center. 

When he got home, "I was exhausted," he said. 

But he pulled it together, lugged his camera an hour uphill, and clambered into his bird hide.

Soon his prize appeared: a fledgling South Philippine dwarf kingfisher, about three weeks old [top].

For 10 minutes the rare bird posed on a branch, showing off its pastel coloring and unusual black bill.

"I was so, so thrilled," said Dr. De Leon, who had chased this shot for over three years. "I felt like my chest would explode."

The Philippines is filled with birds that can be found only in its forests — at least 255 species are unique to the country.

But very little is known about most of them, including the South Philippine dwarf kingfisher.

Dr. De Leon's photograph is the first known to be taken of a fledgling.

His birding group, the Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy, specializes in such photos.

The group's work tends to be both research- and Instagram-worthy, filling gaps in scientific knowledge while showing off the country’s biodiversity.

Dr. De Leon started his group, which is named for the author of the region’s main bird guide, in 2017.

None of its eight members are professional ornithologists — others include an artist, a military strategist, and two pilots.

But they are very, very patient.

"Foreign researchers and scientists don't stay here in the Philippines long," Dr. De Leon said.

His group instead does stakeouts: long days in bird hides, which they construct from bamboo, palm fronds, and banana leaves.

They build the hides over the course of a few days, usually near nests.

They then do their best to stay in them from sunrise to sunset, to avoid disturbing wary bird parents.

"If there's any alteration in the behavior of the birds, then we stop," said Dr. De Leon.

With these strategies, they can learn things that might otherwise require more disruptive methods, Dr. De Leon said.

In 2017, for example, he and a few others published a paper detailing the South Philippine dwarf kingfisher's dietary habits, which they pieced together over years of watching parents bring food back to the nest. (They eat a lot of skinks, and no fish.)

This took extra dedication, as the South Philippine dwarf kingfisher [below] is particularly hard to spot.

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[A mature South Philippine dwarf kingfisher]

"It perches quietly and darts invisibly from perch to perch," Dr. Kennedy's bird guide warns.

And as Dr. De Leon's group soon found, the fledgling is even sneakier.

While birds of other species often stay close to their nests while learning to fly, the young kingfishers rocket away.

"Even if we're watching them closely, they just disappear," he said.

He hopes his hard-won photos of the young bird will help researchers learn more about the species' plumage development, which could help them judge the age of birds in the field.

Plus, he said, "Many Filipinos didn't realize we even have this rare kingfisher."

His images, which have been popular on social media, help spread the word, which in turn aids conservation efforts.

The group has been slowly staking out about a dozen other rarely seen birds, and hopes to release more images and research over the next few years.

"There is just so much to know about Philippine birds," Dr. De Leon said. "Way too much for even a lifetime."

September 20, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fake it till you make it


From websites:

FaceTime's eye contact correction feature, first seen in early beta versions of iOS 13, is back and here to stay in iOS 14.

The company first tested the feature in an iOS 13 beta before pulling it prior to final release.

It used augmented reality and advanced image manipulation techniques to make it seem like a FaceTime participant is making eye contact, or looking directly into the front-facing camera, when they are really looking at an iPhone's screen.

Although the feature didn't make it into the final release of iOS 13, Apple seems to have worked out the kinks and will include it in iOS 14 and iPadOS 14.

On Apple's iOS 14 features page, the company lists "Eye contact" as a new FaceTime feature (it was referred to as "Attention Correction" in iOS 13 beta).

"FaceTime can make video calling more natural by helping you establish eye contact even when you're looking at the screen instead of the camera," the feature's description reads.

It's a subtle feature, but one that should make the person on the other end of the call feel as if you're fully paying attention even when you're not.

Turn it on by going to:

1) Settings

2) FaceTime

3) Eye Contact

Note: Mine was turned on by default after updating to iOS 14.

This has clif's fingerprints all over it.

September 20, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

On reading "The Once and Future King" while flying a U-2 spy plane at 80,000 feet

1 copy

2 copy

[From Helen Macdonald's wonderful memoir, "H is for Hawk," pp. 31-32. Book review to follow when I finish it. Fair warning: it's so good I've invoked SlowRead®© so it might be a few more days before the post appears.]

September 20, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

120-Sided Die

Screen Shot 2020-09-19 at 11.21.38 AM

From the website:

The disdyakis triacontahedron has the most faces among the Archimedean and Catalan solids — and the most faces a die can have and still be usable.

The edges form 15 great circles, and the die is perfectly numerically balanced: opposite faces always add up to 121, and the sum of every group of 10, 6, or 4 numbers around each vertex is the same for all groups of the same type.

Features and Details:

• 1.9685"Ø

• Solid plastic


September 20, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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