Some links: 100

  • Walter Shawlee, slipstick reseller, has passed.

    Over time, his customers included a weather station in Antarctica, where many electronic gadgets could not take the cold; photo editors responsible for adjusting image sizes (they like slide rules for their clear displays of different values for the same ratio); an archaeologist who found that calculators got too dusty to work properly during digs; the drug company Pfizer, which gave away slide rules as gifts during a trade show; slide rule enthusiasts in Afghanistan and French Polynesia; and “guys from NASA,” Mr. Shawlee told Engineering Times in 2000.

  • Sorry, overwintering turtles don’t breathe through their butts.

    The notion that cloacal gas exchange helps North American turtles survive long winters trapped under the ice is pervasive in pop science, but to date, there is no solid evidence that hidden-necked turtles use cloacal gas exchange. The skin and mouth lining are where gas exchange happens during winter hibernation.

  • The Old English for spider is gange-wæfre (“walker-weaver”).
  • From Zack Stanton for McSweeney’s, “Morrissey or Trump?”

    This could only happen to me / Who has been through anything like this?

  • Guest column for Washington Business Journal by Alan Berube and Tracy Hadden Loh: “Caps and Wizards moving to Virginia isn’t ‘regionalism.’ It’s gaslighting.”


So I’m finishing Anne Enright’s The Wren, the Wren and it occurs to me to check what sort of bird an Irish person means by wren. And so I pull out my lightly used (only one trip to Europe so far) Svensson’s Birds of Europe, 2/e (2009) (pp. 336-337), and it is indeed the bird we call Winter Wren, Troglodytes troglodytes.

And the species account is hilarious, as field guides go. On the plate, calling out field marks, is one word: “unmistakable!” And the species account has this gem:

IDENTIFICATION Very small, and this reinforced by ludicrously small tail that is usually raised vertically, also by short neck.

I wonder what other tidbits are to be found in this guide.


Beautiful ringing of the changes on synonyms for reject, in the sense of veto, in Sarah Vogelsong’s “Churchill Downs faces tough election night in Virginia:”

… voters decisively defeated both measures. Almost 59% of Manassas Park voters rejected the Rosie’s referendum, while almost 62% of Richmond voters nixed the casino project — a stark contrast to the 51%-49% split on the casino in 2021 when Urban One was the plan’s sole backer. (emphasis added)

Some links: 96

Some links: 94

Some links: 93

Some links: 91

  • Mr. and Mrs. Pickles have three baby tortoises! Cuter than cute.
  • They were gone before I knew what to call them: David W. Dunlap of The New York Times remembers reader ads.
  • “I can’t define it, but I’m against it.” Also from the Times, Nate Cohn attempts a definition of woke and what it portends.

    … much of what woke is grasping toward: a word to describe a new brand of righteous, identity-conscious, new left activists eager to tackle oppression, including in everyday life and even at the expense of some liberal values.

    * * *

    In the most extreme case for Democrats, the backlash against the new left could end in a repeat of how New Left politics in the 1960s facilitated the marriage of neoconservatives and the religious right in the 1970s. Back then, opposition to the counterculture helped unify Republicans against a new class of highly educated liberals, allowing Southern opponents of civil rights to join old-school liberal intellectuals who opposed Communism and grew skeptical of the Great Society. The parallels are imperfect, but striking.

  • Isobel Novick stans webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella).

    These moths, unfortunately for those with infestations, have other behaviors that contribute to their indestructibility. They can metabolize their own water as a byproduct of keratin digestion, so access to water is not a dealbreaker for survival. What kind of organism can create its own water? This moth has evolved to be an efficient, dynamic, super-survival machine. They are incredibly temperature tolerant, with the ability to survive as eggs or larvae for several days at broiling temperatures as high as 95 degrees F and as far below freezing as 5 degrees F. They are attracted to the smell of woolens, and once established, send pheromonal signals to nearby moths to invite them to party. To add to their tank-like nature, webbing clothes moths can digest toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, and lead. They have no problem metabolizing synthetic materials or chewing through soft plastics. They have even been found on mummified human remains and have been around long enough to be mentioned in the Bible.

  • 17th-18th century tomfoolery: dummy boards.

I’m going to make this a thing, too

Teachers understand that errors in their learners’ output are normal and complex. They can be… a misapplication of an analogy (e.g., if “let’s do lunch” is correct, then “let’s do sandwich” should be fine also).

—Andrea B. Hellman et al., The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners: Adult Education and Workforce Development (2019), p. 63

Woolf decoded

Yes, he [Peter Walsh] remembered Regent’s Park; the long straight walk; the little house where one bought air-balls to the left; an absurd statue with an inscription somewhere or other.

—Virginia Woolf, The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway (2021) (p. 82), notes by Merve Emre

air-ball turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping that it meant a tasty treat. But big Oxford has “a ball inflated with air, a toy so called.” Also it appears to be a Briticism that has fallen out of use. Webster II doesn’t have an entry, nor does my Concise Oxford of 1990.

And, of course, nothing to do with a missed shot, although I suppose you could launch an air ball with an air-ball.