Random Posts

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rodents, the Darlings of the Victorian Elite

     Anthropomorphic Taxidermy is a creepy, but fascinating subject. During the Great Exhibition in 1851, a group of stuffed hedgehogs wowed folks and made it an immensely popular subject. But it wasn't just hedgehogs. Dead kittens eating tea and crumpets, dead hamsters playing cricket and other subjects became popular. 
     The Victorian were passionate about whimsical fantasy and natural history so a “logical” result was anthropomorphic taxidermy. Death fascinated the Victorians and rituals of expressing grief adhered to stringent rules that were often implemented on an outlandish scale. After Prince Albert’s death in 1861, Queen Victoria’s period of mourning, which continued until her own death, actually inspired a lot of art.  For example, they tired electroplating the dead to made ornaments from their body parts...gruesome stuff to our way of thinking. Taxidermy allowed (and still does) people to honor their pets by stuffing and mounting and preserving dead animals was also deemed important. Natural history was a popular interest for the upper classes.
A modern example
    In the 18th century, the European pioneers of taxidermy used rudimentary formulas to preserve birds for scientific study and over the next century, taxidermists invented non-poisonous preservation methods, but the work still lacked artistry and exhibited a stiff form...they looked dead. In the 19th century scientific and technical changes helped their fixation on nature, life, and death. 

     The world’s fair, The Great Exhibition in London in 1851, was designed by greenhouse engineer Sir Joseph Paxton. The building of iron and glass was made possible by recent inventions such as industrial steam engines and telegraphs. The exhibition housed 14,000 exhibitors and provided a platform for all nations to demonstrate their industrial progress. The most popular exhibit though was the anthropomorphic taxidermy tableaux created by Hermann Ploucquet, a German taxidermist for the Royal Museum in Stuttgart. Each diorama invited the viewer into a miniaturized world.
     Ploucquet’s work dazzled the Queen and King as well as people like Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Charlotte Bronte in addition to the six million other visitors. Ploucquet's dioramas mimicked the style of the fashionable paintings and sculptures of the day. Queen Victoria described them in her diary as “really marvelous.” 
A modern example of a chess set
     Basically, the dioramas humanized the animals. There were landscapes of little animals performing human tasks. Ploucquet took the art to the next level, including scenes of kittens serenading a pig, a weasel disciplining a classroom of rabbits, ice skating hedgehogs, and action scenes portraying a medieval European folk tale. His stuffed animal tableaux were recreated in a book of woodcut illustrations, The Comical Creatures from Wurtemberg, that was published soon after the exhibition. Ploucquet went on to open a private museum filled with wall-to-wall lifelike animal montages.
Detail of the Bishops
    That was the beginning. Walter Potter (1835-1918) was the most widely known anthropomorphic taxidermist who went from preserving his dead birds to creating a huge collection consisting of thousands of stuffed animals is human clothing. At 19, Potter spent seven years creating his masterpiece, “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin,” which showcased 98 species of birds. In 1861, he opened his private museum in Bramber, Sussex, displaying his intricate dioramas, including a kitten wedding party and a rats’ den being raided by the police. His detail was impeccable and included jewelry, frilly knickers and fancy little brandy decanters. Later on Potter went even further by concocting genetic mutations such as eight-legged kittens and two-headed lambs. By the end of his life, Potter’s museum held a collection of 10,000 specimens. 

     If you are interested in this subject course books are offered HERE.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Useless Medical Tests

     Guess what I discovered recently when, after a change in health insurance carriers, I reestablished connection with my previous physician? It seems like when you reach a certain age doctors want to run every test they can think of even if symptoms are not present. I suppose this can be a life saver in some circumstances and physicians also need to cover themselves in case they miss something...we live in a society of people who like to sue and doctor's malpractice insurance is through the roof as it is. 
     Still, some of the stuff they order seems like overkill. A friend related to me the other day that he had gone to the doctor for a relatively minor complaint and the doctor ordered a “nuclear stress test” and a “renal scan” to rule out any heart conditions. The guy figured that because he's pushing 60 maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. Everything was negative, but the tests cost several thousand dollars and his share of the bill was $3,200. As it turns out, wasted money he really could not afford. 
     A study of more than a million Medicare patients suggested that a huge proportion had received care that was simply a waste. The researchers called it “low-value care.” But, really, it was no-value care. They studied how often people received one of twenty-six tests or treatments that scientific and professional organizations have consistently determined to have no benefit or to be outright harmful. Read more.
     Pain specialists order costly tests for illegal drugs such as cocaine and angel dust, which few seniors ever use. In a proactive effort to help stem healthcare spending, nine medical specialty organizations have published their top 5 lists of tests, treatments, or services that are unnecessary or at least should include a thorough conversation between patients and their doctors regarding the benefits and risks of before undertaking the procedure. Read more.

When to say “No” to your doctor. Forbes article 
Why Doctors Won't Do Less, Even When More Is Wasteful and Useless. CBS News article 
Seniors Beware of Useless Tests…in Certain States. Doctors in states popular with seniors have a tendency to order unnecessary medical tests, according to The New York Times. Read article.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Amazing Lakes of the World

     Despite being covered by water, only a tiny fraction -- 0.008 percent -- of Earth's freshwater is contained in rivers and lakes. Yet there is astonishing variety among the lakes the of the world. From pink lakes in Australia and Kenya, to lakes filled with harmless jellyfish, lakes provide strange environments for different species of animals and plants. The lakes listed HERE are some of the most spectacular and unusual that the world has to offer. 

List of Lakes by Volume and a List of Lakes by Area 

Of special interest to me are the Great Lakes because I live in very close proximity to Lake Erie. 

The Great Lakes: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario. 
The St. Lawrence River 
Niagara Falls.  In the summer of 1969, engineers stopped the flow of water to the American and Bridal Veil Falls. This site shows the dry Falls.

Yahoo Gallery Widget

     With this Widget you can get widgets without even opening your browser. The Yahoo Gallery Widget allows you to search for widgets or browse the newest widgets by category. i.e. you can add small standalone applications that can offer an endless variety of features, content, and system functionality. Twenty-two default widgets are included such as a weather forecaster, a Yahoo Mail manager, a Wi-Fi signal checker, a calendar, and an iTunes remote. You can add stuff like larm clocks, calculators, stock quotes and on and on. Could be very handy for some people...could also lead to useless clutter! Download from C-net

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Buzzword Generators

While on the subject of buzzwords, here are some sites worth a visit if you need to sound impressive for any reason.

Business Buzzword Generator - Our visibility center is focused on new ways to recontextualize the consumer space through viral deployments of enterprise. 

Or, you can generate meaningless, empty phrases that make it look like you know what you are talking about by simply click on the button and a random piece of business jargon will appear in the box at Plain English Campaign - We need to cascade memos about our facilitating monitored alignment.

Maybe you want to Be an Art Critic - With regard to the issue of content, the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships spatially undermines the exploration of montage elements.

Tired of racking your brain trying to come up with an artist's statement extolling the unique virtues of your latest art work? Try THIS. Example...The mind creates, the body reproduces. In the material space, art objects are reproductions of the creations of the mind - a mind that uses the body as a parallax to materialize ideas, patterns, and emotions.

Don't know what to Blog about? Let Hubspot help. Examples...
  • How to Solve the Biggest Problems With Chess 
  • 14 Common Misconceptions About Tartajubow 
  • 20 Myths About chess
Link Bait Generator pretty cool, too!
  • Why You Should Forget Everything You Learned About Chess 
  • 10 Ways Chess Can Suck the Life Out of You 
  • 11 Ways Investing in Chess Can Make You a Millionaire
Need an Acronym Finder? Just type in any letters. For example, FART 
  • Fathers Against Radical Teenagers 
  • Fast Action Response Team 
  • Farmers Against Ridiculous Taxes 
  • Fire Alarm Response Team
If you want to post memes on Facebook here is a very nice site to generate them...Meme Generator:

Want to preach a sermon? You can try this site...Sermon Ideas and compose a sermon just by selecting a topic, the exposition, the main points, and finally the closing. Here is an abridged sermon I generated on the subject of “accounting.” 

The evil of out past comes back to haunt us. The phrase, when the chickens come home to roost is a colloquialism that refers to the tendency of chickens on a farm to roam freely. In the day, they are often seen under the house or pecking long distances from the coop. However, when the sun begins to set, without fail, chickens will always come back home to perch themselves on the roosts. Even in the church, the chickens have come home to roost. 

There are many who are looking at the results many years of neglect and spiritual decay.  Some have chosen to live outside of God’s will and are presently enjoying themselves, feasting on the best that this life has to offer, but the handwriting is on the wall.  There is a warning to those who practice evil deeds, there is promise to those who do good. We are encouraged to do as much good as we can for as many as we can as long as we can.

How To Sound Like a Profound Thinker

     Beauty requires exploration.
     As you dream, you will enter into infinite wonder that transcends understanding. 
     The secret of the universe gives rise to a symphony of self-knowledge. 
     This life is nothing short of an ennobling oasis of self-aware faith. 


    A Canadian study from the University of Waterloo suggests that people guilty of posting quotes like those above on Facebook are probably not very smart. The research, titled On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bull****, asserts that there is a correlation between low intelligence and being easily impressed by what looks like a profound statement. 
     The study was conducted by Gordon Pennycock whose research is focused on dual-process theories of reasoning and decision-making. In the study they found some people are receptive to these nonsensical statements. 
     Approximately 300 subjects were presented the various statements that included such random statements and they were asked to rate their profoundness on a scale of one to five. The participants were asked to classify each quote as “profound,” “bullshit” or “mundane.” Cognitive ability and personality tests were also administered to the subjects. 
     The researchers found that individuals who were unable to discern a fake statement and rated them as profound were less intelligent and unlikely to engage in reflective thinking. They were also more vulnerable to ontological confusions (ontology refers to the subject of existence) and conspiracy theories and more likely to hold certain religious or paranormal beliefs. Such people usually found random computer generated “New Age poppycock” such as the above introductory statements to be quite profound. 
     You know the type...you see a lot of them on Facebook. They run across fake stories or images on the Internet and post them on Facebook. More often than not, what they don't realize is that many times these images have been circulating on the Internet for years. These are Facebook’s memes...images videos, texts, etc. that are copied and spread by users.
     Many of these are simply urban legends, made-up stories or quotations of doubtful origin. Many of them are political in nature and are usually totally false. These political images, quotes and news stories are often nothing more than distorted or made up “facts” and they spread quickly because Facebook users’ friends are generally made up of people similar to themselves and so such posts confirm and strengthen their friends' beliefs. People simply do not check out the facts.  See my posts about fake news sites HERE and HERE.
     I saw one post of President and Mrs. Obama supposedly “disrespecting” the American flag by holding their left hand over their heart. It took about two minutes to find the original photo on Google. The Facebook photo was clearly mirrored and touched up. 
     These are the folks that will be impressed when you quote stuff from the sites maintained by Seb Pearce or Deepak Chopra. On their sites quotes are generated from a list of common buzzwords randomly stuck together in a sentence to create statements with no actual meanings.  All you do is click a button and, apparently according to research, it'll impress a lot of people and make you sound like a philosopher. On the other hand,if they are critical thinkers, you will sound like an idiot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Free 3D Human Modeling Program

Here is a nice little open source program for making 3D human figures. Nothing fancy but these characters can be modeled in minutes and can then be used with many other modeling and rendering programs to incorporate realistic human figures into computer generated images and animations. Download from site, Makehuman.