25 Aug 2016

Fisherman’s Good Luck Charm Identified as $100 Million Pearl

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giantpearl

New York Post:

A fisherman in the Philippines is happy as a clam after discovering that a mammoth pearl he stashed away for 10 years under his bed is worth a cool $100 million.

The lucky angler, who has not been identified, discovered the 75-pound pearl — believed to be the biggest ever — in the sea off Palawan Island, the Mirror of the UK reported.

Unaware of the giant pearl’s value, he kept it as a good-luck piece under his bed until a fire in his home forced him to move. The superstitious fishermen then decided to hand it over to the tourism office in remote Puerto Princesa, city officials said.

A stunned tourism officer determined that the pearl, measuring a foot wide and 2.2 feet long, dwarfs the official current record holder — the $35 million, 14-pound Pearl of Allah, which in 1934 was also found off Palawan.

“The fisherman threw the anchor down and it got stuck on a rock during a storm,” tourism officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao explained. “He noticed that it was lodged on a shell and swam down to pull up the anchor, and also brought the shell with him.

“He didn’t know how much it was worth and kept it tucked away at home as a simple good-luck charm,” she added. …

Officials plan to keep the fisherman’s pearl in the Philippines in a bid to increase tourism to the area.

Giant clams, which rarely produce pearls, can grow as large as four feet in length and weigh 500 pounds. They’re typically found in the South Pacific or Indian Ocean.

24 Aug 2016

Somebody Had To Do It

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SmugglerRoad

BBC:

Alexander Laznenko of the Smolensk Region Border Agency tells Tass news agency that the smugglers used heavy earth-moving equipment at night to “widen and raise the gravel track, and put in more turning and passing points” — right under the noses of the local authorities.

Earlier this month, customs officers ambushed a convoy of nine lorries there laden with 175 tonnes of Greek and Polish fruit worth 13m roubles (£154,000; $200,000), but are none the wiser about who upgraded the road through the tiny Russian village of Klimenki.

Local administration chief Sergei Listopadov said villagers have come forward to say they saw crews working on the road earlier this year. He joked to RIA Novosti news agency that he’d like to write their mysterious benefactor a “letter of thanks” for improving a road that only a horse and cart could negotiate before.

But Mr Laznenko doesn’t see the funny side. He says customs officers have put the 4.5km (2.7 mile) track under constant surveillance but, as they do not have the authority to barricade or dig it up, they will have to rely on catching the smugglers out.

Russia announced a ban on food imports from the European Union last year, in retaliation for an EU trade embargo over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Since then, the number of lorries crossing legally from Belarus has increased dramatically in the last year to 73,000, all of which Russian customs have to inspect for banned foodstuffs, Mr Laznenko says.

Social media users tend to agree with Mr Listopadov, though. “At least someone is maintaining our roads,” one person writes, a sentiment echoed in many other comments on RIA Novosti’s site. Some even suggest the smugglers should form a party to stand in next month’s parliamentary elections on a “Let our lorry through, and we’ll fix your potholes” platform.

24 Aug 2016

Building the Essentially-Pointless Ghost Gun

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GhostGun
Not a very pretty lower receiver

Andy Greenburg tried making his own completely-unregistered AR-15 lower receiver (the part that the BATF counts as the gun) in a backroom of WIRED’s San Francisco offices.

He found that making one using a drill press and one of those 80% receiver kits out there was beyond his own slender mechanical abilities.

He also tried the 3-D Printing approach, winding up with another receiver rejected by his gunsmith as needing several more hours of clean-up work.

Defense Distributed‘s software and Ghost Gunner $1500 CNC mill worked much better. And with roughly $700 of added mail-order parts, Greenburg had a working unregistered AR-15.

Naturally, as soon as he assembled it, fired it to prove that it worked, and wrote up his feature, breathing heavily with excitement all the way, he went right over to a San Francisco police station and turned in all three (two duds, one working) lower receivers.

The moral? Unregistered AR-15s are awfully expensive. Greenburg’s three efforts cost: $1334 for the failed drill press kit version, $3604 for the 3-D printed version (including printer), and a mere $2272 for the Ghost Gunner version. You can go out and buy a more powerful, more accurate used bolt action sporter for $400-500. You can buy a Ruger Ranch Rifle semi-auto in the same .223 caliber for $650-750.

So why do you need an unregistered AR-15 anyway? Only goofy metrosexual libtards think that the crucial essence of firearms ownership and usage has to do with the ability of the authorities to identify some particular firearm and to trace its ownership.

In reality, after a crime has been committed, it is frequently perfectly obvious that the firearm that was used is that one there, the one lying on the ground. And the provenance of a particular firearm after it has already been used criminally is generally not all that interesting. Commonly, the perp just bought it legally.

Liberals all seem to be living in some odd old-fashioned Agatha Christie mystery in which the identity of the criminal and his motives are completely bound up with the chain of possession of the weapon he used. If Inspector Poirot can find out exactly which pistol was used to dispatch Colonel Mannering in the library, only thus can it be demonstrated that the butler did it, it being the butler’s gun!

Myself, I was over at my local gunsmith’s shop recently, and on the counter were several piles of AR-15 lower receivers. The prettier ones (much nicer than Greenberg’s) were selling for $49. There were less attractive ones for $39. (They would have been registered at the time of sale, of course.)

I thought of buying one, but reflected that I would then need to buy the better part of a thousand bucks worth of barrel, stock, upper receiver, sight, handguard, and trigger group, and came right back to my senses and concluded that I did not need any $49 paperweight.

24 Aug 2016

Barthes on Photography

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Jerome_bonaparte
Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte, 1784-1860, King Jerome I of Westphalia, 1807-1813, photographed in 1852

BarthesonJerome
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography.

23 Aug 2016

Trumpkin Logic

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TrumpChia

23 Aug 2016

That Third-Grader is Still Running For President

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Tweet190

Rod Dreher shakes his head in frustration over “Trump at his Trumpiest.”

Trump supporters must want to put their heads on the table at this kind of thing. Here is a man who stands a chance of becoming President of the United States, but he cannot stay focused enough on the campaign to do what’s necessary. Instead, the media have gotten inside his head.

Somebody inside the Trump campaign apparently twisted his arm to get him to quit reading his Twitter feed long enough to get down to Louisiana with some relief supplies. He handled himself well while he was here, and even won praise from the Democratic governor, and our former US Senator, also a Democrat. He did well! It ought to have been the occasion for a campaign reset, however small. The fact that Hillary Clinton has been attending fundraisers with the superrich instead of visiting the suffering here is a golden campaign issue that reinforces his themes about the elites being out of touch.

But no. Here he is on Monday morning, being Trump at his Trumpiest, bitching and moaning about the hosts of a low-rated morning television show, and doing so in language that does not demean them, but demeans himself. See, this is a good example of why he’s unfit for office. Can you imagine being on President Trump’s staff and having to get him to put down his smartphone and listen to the daily briefing? Sad!

At just about every turn, Trump steps on his own chances, through his egotism, his lack of self-restraint, and his inability to focus on the long game. Yes, the media are biased, but at some point, he’s got to realize that his greatest obstacle in the task of being elected president is himself.

23 Aug 2016

Double-Helix Staircase

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Chambord

ChambordStaircase1

ChambordStaircase3

ChambordStaircase2
model illustrating the staircase’s design

Wikipedia:

The royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France.

Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the châteaux of Blois and Amboise. The original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, though with some doubt, to Domenico da Cortona; Leonardo da Vinci may also have been involved. …

One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular open double spiral staircase that is the centerpiece of the château. The two spirals ascend the three floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the château. There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed. Writer John Evelyn said of the staircase “it is devised with four (sic) entries or ascents, which cross one another, so that though four persons meet, they never come in sight, but by small loopholes, till they land. It consists of 274 steps (as I remember), and is an extraordinary work, but of far greater expense than use or beauty.”

22 Aug 2016

2016, and Downhill From There!

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TrumpvsHillary

How did we get to this point? Where are we going in the future? Jonathan Rauch, in the Atlantic, argues that we democratized and reformed our way to chaos, disorder, and allowing the momentary whims of the least common denominator to make the key decisions, and he thinks it is only going to get worse.

It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.

As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes. …

Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome.

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.

Our intricate, informal system of political intermediation, which took many decades to build, did not commit suicide or die of old age; we reformed it to death. For decades, well-meaning political reformers have attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or (usually) all of the above. Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick.

The disorder has other causes, too: developments such as ideological polarization, the rise of social media, and the radicalization of the Republican base. But chaos syndrome compounds the effects of those developments, by impeding the task of organizing to counteract them. Insurgencies in presidential races and on Capitol Hill are nothing new, and they are not necessarily bad, as long as the governing process can accommodate them. Years before the Senate had to cope with Ted Cruz, it had to cope with Jesse Helms. The difference is that Cruz shut down the government, which Helms could not have done had he even imagined trying.

Like many disorders, chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes governmental dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites political disruption, which causes yet more governmental dysfunction. Reversing the spiral will require understanding it.

——————————————–

Michael Rosemblum, at HuffPo, thinks it’s simpler than that. Ignore the polls, Trump will win because he’s the biggest celebrity and America has evolved into a television-based celebrity culture. Get ready for Kanye West vs. Phil Robertson next time!

Donald Trump is going to be elected president.

The American people voted for him a long time ago.

They voted for him when The History Channel went from showing documentaries about the Second World War to Pawn Stars and Swamp People.

They voted for him when The Discovery Channel went from showing Lost Treasures of the Yangtze Valley to Naked and Afraid.

They voted for him when The Learning Channel moved from something you could learn from to My 600 Pound Life.

They voted for him when CBS went from airing Harvest of Shame to airing Big Brother.

These networks didn’t make these programming changes by accident. They were responding to what the American people actually wanted. And what they wanted was Naked and Afraid and Duck Dynasty.

The polls may show that Donald Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton, but don’t you believe those polls. When the AC Nielsen Company selects a new Nielsen family, they disregard the new family’s results for the first three months. The reason: when they feel they are being monitored, people lie about what they are watching. In the first three months, knowing they are being watched, they will tune into PBS. But over time they get tired of pretending. Then it is back to The Kardashians.

The same goes for people who are being asked by pollsters for whom they are voting. They will not say Donald Trump. It is too embarrassing. But the truth is, they like Trump. He is just like their favorite shows on TV.

Mindless entertainment.

Trump’s replacement of Paul Manafort with Breitbart’s Steve Bannon shows that Trump understands how Americans actually think. They think TV. They think ratings. They think entertainment.

22 Aug 2016

A Non-Vote For Satan is a Vote For Cthulhu!

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SatanCthulhu

22 Aug 2016

“I’m Gonna Lose So Good”

TrumpGonnaLose

Adam Edelman, at the Daily News, speculates that the Trump Campaign reorganization and the hiring of abrasive Breitbart head Steve Bannon is all about letting Trump continue to be Trump, and redoubling his identification with the Alt-Right, as he flies the remainder of his campaign right into the ground.

Make America great again — by lighting a match and flicking it into the dumpster of a floundering campaign.

The reshuffling of Donald Trump’s brain trust could be a white flag — an intentional effort to tank the presidential election in spectacular fashion.

The GOP nominee’s presidential bid emerged from its most disastrous stretch to date so wounded that Trump had no choice but to pull a few strings, outwardly as a last-ditch try to make his race with Hillary Clinton more competitive.

But the shakeup last week, some experts say, was actually to seal his fate — a “yuge” November loss — by bringing in flashy advisers who will just let him be himself, and let his circus tent crash and burn.

“Trump may indeed be planning to lose in the loudest and most destructive way possible,” David Birdsell, dean of the Public Affairs School at Baruch College, told the Daily News.

That was Birdsell’s response when asked about Trump’s decision to bring in Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of far-right news and opinion site Breitbart. …

“The move ignores the deep discomfort most Americans feel about the alt-right crowd. Trump’s winking flirtations with the far right have been distressing enough,” Birdsell said. “But Bannon is firmly established in this world; the daylight between Trump and some of the ugliest corners of the American polity is about to shrink to a nullity.”

It’s a head-scratching move that will likely solidify his popularity among his base, but do little to attract voters among other demographics he needs to win a majority in the Electoral College in November.

“He’s already doing just fine among the far-right and among less-educated whites … and the problem is that there aren’t enough such people in the country to put him over the top,” Birdsell explained. “It might look better if they were concentrated in battleground states, but they’re not. Many are already in safely red states such as Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

22 Aug 2016

Flatiron Building

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Flatiron1

Flatiron2

Flatiron3

FlatironBuilding

FlatironPC

The Fuller company, famed for its skyscraper designs, purchased a triangular plot in Manhattan on 23rd Street. The space was known as the Flatiron for its resemblance to a household clothes iron. Architect Daniel Burnham designed a building in the Beaux-Arts style, incorporating classical Roman features into a modern building with sculpted decoration. Upon completion in June 1902, the 22-story Flatiron Building was the tallest building in New York.

During its construction, many thought the wind would blow the building down, due to its odd height and shape. Thus, it was nicknamed “Burnham’s Folly.”

Due to the geography of the site, with Broadway on one side, Fifth Avenue on the other, and the open expanse of Madison Square and the park in front of it, the wind currents around the building could be treacherous. Wind from the north would split around the building, downdrafts from above and updrafts from the vaulted area under the street would combine to make the wind unpredictable. This is said to have given rise to the phrase “23 skidoo”, from what policemen would shout at men who tried to get glimpses of women’s dresses being blown up by the winds swirling around the building due to the strong downdrafts.

21 Aug 2016

Paradox

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TrumpSupport

21 Aug 2016

Giant Snakeskin Found in Maine, Confirming June Sighting of Huge Snake “Wessie” Eating a Beaver

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PresumpscotSnakeskin

Bangor Daily News:

Westbrook police are warning residents after a large snake skin was found near the Presumpscot River on Saturday.

Police said a resident reported finding a shed snake skin along the Presumpscot River around 3 p.m. near the carry-in boat launch in the area of Riverbank Park.

Westbrook police officers photographed, collected and tagged the skin, which will be examined in attempts to determine what type of snake it came from and what risks this type of snake poses to public safety. …

This comes after two Westbrook police officers spotted a 10-foot snake eating a large mammal along the riverbank in Riverbank Park in June.

——————————

Since June, the snake has developed a following. It’s been named “Wessie.” It has a Twitter page. And the local Mast Landing Brewery created a “Wessie” IPA in its honor. Wessie beer was so popular that Mast Landing had sold out of it as of August 4th.

21 Aug 2016

Unique European Revolver

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From Ian McCollum, a very odd, downright steampunk, one-of-a-kind European prototype revolver.

Rock Island Auction September 9 – 11, 2016, Lot 1359, estimated price $2500-4000.

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