Sunday, September 25, 2022



Some items from various sites . . .


23 September 2022

Over 1,600 Books Were Banned During the Past School Year (US)

PEN America, a body which has monitored book banning in the US since 1982, has released figures that 1,600 books were banned in schools in the last year. Whether or not you agree with the subject matter or the content, censorship is a matter that should concern us all.

Between July 2021 and June 2022, the report—Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools—found 2,532 instances of individual bans, which covered 1,648 unique books. The bans took place in 138 school districts across 32 states; in total, those school districts enrol nearly 4 million students. PEN believes more exist than those detected.

About 41 percent of the banned titles explicitly address LGBTQ themes, making these the biggest target of the bans. Books involving sexual content—such as stories about teen pregnancy, sexual assault and abortion—account for 22 percent of the titles. About 21 percent directly address race and racism, while 40 percent feature major characters of colour.

The team behind Banned in the USA wanted to determine where book bans originated. They found that in many instances, the bans were the calculated result of work by advocacy groups.


22 September, 2022

Cross Writing: A Peculiar Way to Save Paper And Postage

Back in the 1800s, when both paper and postage were expensive (the cost of posting a letter depended on how many sheets of paper you used), it was common among folks to write on a sheet of paper the regular way, and once they had run out of room, turn the paper sideways and keep writing. The practice was called cross-writing or cross-hatching.

A crossed letter might seem illegible at first, but once you become familiar with it you adjust and learn to ignore the script across. Still, a crossed letter was not enjoyable to read, even in its heyday. In his essay Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-Writing, noted author Lewis Carroll wrote: “When you get to the end of a notesheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper—a whole sheet, or a scrap, as the case may demand: but whatever you do, don’t cross! Remember the old proverb Cross-writing makes cross reading.”

Examples of cross writing:


22 September 2022

Prairie dogs build their burrows with a flat orifice at one end and a mounded one at the other. During a breeze, the different surface geometries create a pressure differential via the Bernoulli effect, forcing air to flow from the flat end to the mounded end, ventilating the burrow.

Byzantine princess Theophano, wife of Holy Roman emperor Otto was resented by the emperor’s courtiers for her peculiar habits, including “luxurious tastes”, like demanding to take a bath daily and using “a golden double prong to bring food to her mouth”, instead of eating with her hands.

When Madonna’s first single was released, the record label promoted her as a Black artist, down to making the cover a collage of downtown New York featuring Black people rather than a picture of her. This ended when she convinced the label to let her shoot a music video.

Flowers exposed to the playback sound of a flying bee produce sweeter nectar within 3 minutes, with sugar concentration averaging 20% higher.

Shopping carts were not popular when they were first invented. Men found them to be effeminate and women thought they looked too much like a baby carriage.


22 September 2022

The Ocean Cleanup Conceptualizes Its Third Massive Apparatus to Remove Trash from the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’

Sadly known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a wide swath of ocean between the U.S. coast and Japan is an enormous vortex of trash. A gyre, or system of currents, surrounds the area and sucks debris and litter into its rotation, trapping hundreds of millions of kilograms of plastic waste within its 20 million square kilometers.

Back in 2018, The Ocean Cleanup engineered a slow-moving apparatus called System 001 designed to wade through the patch to retrieve garbage with a massive net. The nonprofit, which wants to remove 90 percent of floating plastic by 2040, is now conceptualizing its third iteration of the machine that will be the largest and most efficient model to date. System 3 will now be comprised of three vessels that rely on drones to identify waste hotspots. The ships will haul a massive 2,500-meter wide and four-meter deep net system that sweeps the targeted areas to gather debris and funnel it to a sizable retention zone. Once collected and hauled from the water, the waste is organized into shipping containers and sent for recycling or repurposing.


22 September 2022

Why Hunger Stones Are Terrifying People In A Drought-Ravaged Europe

Recent heatwaves and ensuing droughts in Europe are not exactly causing people to be comfortable – but the re-emergence of “hunger stones” due to low water levels definitely are not helping matters at all.

Hunger stones are a hydrological monument found in some Central Europe rivers and are revealed when water levels drop. They date back to the 15th-19th centuries, purposefully embedded to warn future people of hard times ahead.

Some also bear watermarks with dates of previous droughts, which is delicious primary evidence for those interested in historical weather patterns.

Researchers from Masaryk University recently studied one of the most famous hunger stones in Czech history. “It expressed that drought had brought a bad harvest, lack of food, high prices, and hunger for poor people. Before 1900, the following droughts are commemorated on the stone: 1417, 1616, 1707, 1746, 1790, 1800, 1811, 1830, 1842, 1868, 1892, and 1893.”

The stone lies in the Elbe River near the German border, and bears the inscription “if you see me, weep.”

Europe’s current drought is the worst in over 500 years, and combined with record-breaking heatwaves, people are understandably already on high-alert.

That said, the hunger stones have emerged before, most recently in 2018.

As things regarding the worldwide climate continue to deteriorate, we’re likely to see them again, and sooner rather than later.

Scientists believe things will get significantly worse, in fact, with shifting wind and weather patterns making it more likely that air pressure systems will hang around longer, creating even lengthier droughts.

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