Did you know that landlocked Switzerland has a navy? Or at least they did in World War II; I saw some of their boats in a museum. Here's a short Wikipedia article about it what they have now. (Do not, for the sake of not having to see things you can't unsee, google "Swiss Navy," which is apparently a brand name of something you'd rather not know about.)

The much more pleasant purpose of this post is to alert you to other maritime news: apparently Switzerland also has pirates!

Armed forces, indeed.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 at 10:19 am | Edit
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Despite My Rocky Relationship with Penzeys Spices, I hold no grudge against the Penzey's mugs I've acquired over the years.

Until one turned out to be an IED, that is. (Click to enlarge.)

It had given me no trouble whatsoever for years.  Then one day I noticed the cup seemed exceptionally hot when I took it from the microwave.  That should have been a clue.  The next time I tried to warm up my tea was more exciting: Pieces of the cup exploded off with loud bangs, revealing rusty metal underneath.

The odd thing is, there had been no previous evidence of a problem.  No worn spots, no places that looked thin. And who knew there was metal around the rim of the mug?

You never know what might be lurking in your cupboard.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 16, 2021 at 9:01 am | Edit
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Since it changed hands, I haven't found the Babylon Bee as interesting as it used to be. Or maybe Facebook has only been showing me their worst efforts recently; sometimes I think Facebook is a conspiracy theory dream all by itself.

In any case, this one is funny on more than one level.  Be sure to watch to the end; it's only two minutes long.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 12, 2021 at 10:14 am | Edit
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This may explain a few marital frustrations. (Credit to someone on Facebook but I can't find it again to share it.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at 6:04 am | Edit
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I realize that for very few of my readers is the question of whether or not a pregnant woman should get a COVID-19 vaccine of any importance. Nonetheless this is worth a post just because it is one of those laugh-or-cry articles.

The source is the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, which I generally respect. Here's a link to the whole article for those of you who seriously want the information. It's a serious business and an important decision to make.

For everyone else, however, here are a few snippets that caught my eye and inspired me to write. The bolded emphasis is my own.

Globally, over 200 million people are pregnant each year. Whether they should be offered the new COVID vaccines as they become available is an important public health policy decision. Whether pregnant people should seek vaccination is a deeply personal decision.

Note the term "pregnant people." The article goes out of its way, to the point of being very annoying, to avoid the term, "pregnant women." Exactly how many pregnant men have there been in the history of the world? I do, however, appreciate the acknowledgement that it's a personal decision, although later on the article seems to find a problem with that.

Evidence to date suggests that people who are pregnant face a higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID compared to people who are not pregnant. For instance, pregnant people are three times more likely to require admission to intensive care and to need invasive ventilation. The overall risk of death among pregnant people is low, but it is elevated compared to similar people who are not pregnant. Some studies suggest that COVID in pregnancy might be associated with increased rates of preterm birth.

There are still significant unknowns: How do risks vary by trimester? What are the risks of asymptomatic infection? Further, most current information about COVID and pregnancy comes from high-income countries, limiting its global generalizability.

Although there is not yet pregnancy-specific data about COVID vaccines from clinical trials, the vaccines have been studied in pregnant laboratory animals. Called developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) studies, research with pregnant animals can provide reassurance about moving forward with vaccine research in pregnant people. 

All three of these vaccines offer a very high level of protection against severe COVID. There is little reason to believe these vaccines will be less effective in pregnant people than they are in people of comparable age who are not pregnant.

The next sentence is the one that made me sure I had to write about this. It's the kind of thing I would have shared on Facebook, except that I'm trying to reduce my Facebook presence, so it goes here instead. With more words, naturally.

Professional societies, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Society for Maternal-Fetal-Medicine, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, all support COVID vaccination in pregnancy when the benefits outweigh the risks.

What, pray tell, does that say that has any usefulness? Who in his right mind would support something when the risks outweigh the benefits? So how is this a meaningful statement at all?

The absence of pregnancy-specific data around COVID vaccines continues an unfair pattern in which evidence about safety of new vaccines for pregnant people lags behind. This unfairness is ethically problematic in at least two important ways.

So, it's unfair because we don't have enough data on the effects of the vaccines in pregnancy? Would they have held back the vaccines until sufficient data had been gathered so that the information was "equal" for everyone? That would truly have been unfair to pregnant women, because letting the rest of the population get vaccinated helps them whether or not they feel safe getting the vaccine for themselves.

First, people may be denied vaccine, or may face barriers in accessing vaccine, because they are pregnant.

I agree that's a problem. Because the data is insufficient, in absence of a clear danger to mother and/or child in getting the vaccine, it should not be withheld from a woman who feels comfortable with it.

Second, even when pregnant people are eligible for vaccination, because public health authorities have not explicitly recommended COVID vaccines in pregnancy, the burden of making decisions about vaccination has shifted to pregnant people. 

And where else should it be? Medical advice should not be handed down like commandments from heaven. People need the best information available, and the freedom to make their own decisions—even wrong ones.

Come to think of it, even commandments from heaven come with the free will to ignore them.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at 5:12 pm | Edit
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I've mentioned before situations in which fear has led to unreasonable responses to the COVID-19 threat. Whether by governments or by private citizens, that's a bad thing. However, this is still funny.

For those who are wondering, HEMA stands for Historical European Martial Arts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, March 15, 2021 at 3:44 am | Edit
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Is this poking the bear? It's not original; I found it and it made me laugh. We need some laughs!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 13, 2021 at 6:22 am | Edit
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With the Fifth Amendment to our Constitution now joining the First and Second under attack, it's time for a brief review of the first ten, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

That's the bare bones; I leave analysis of these amendments as an exercise for the reader.

Just for fun, here are a few Sporcle games (roughly in order of diffculty) to help keep the bones of these amendments (and more) fresh in our minds. 

Click Your Rights

Bill of Rights 1

Bill of Rights 2

Constitutional Amendments 1

Constitutional Amendments 2

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 7, 2021 at 8:25 am | Edit
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This is from the BBC, perhaps more trustworthy than some news sites? Pretty funny, anyway.

Scientists studied more than 1,000 foods, assigning each a nutritional score. The higher the score, the more likely each food would meet, but not exceed your daily nutritional needs, when eaten in combination with others.

Of course, "scientists" is a meaningless designation, and it's not clear how the foods tested were chosen, but they later add,

Food selection, ranking and cost based on the scientific study “Uncovering the Nutritional Landscape of Food”, published in the journal PLoS ONE.

So presumably one could find out more details. Below are their top 100, followed by the designated nutritional scores. Note that 99 of the foods are from plant or fish sources—but take a good look at the food ranked #8. Food for thought.

  1. almonds: 97
  2. cherimoya: 96
  3. ocean perch: 89
  4. flatfish: 88
  5. chia seeds: 85
  6. pumpkin seeds: 84
  7. swiss chard: 78
  8. pork fat: 73
  9. beet greens: 70
  10. snapper: 69
  11. dried parsley: 69
  12. celery flakes: 68
  13. watercress: 68
  14. tangerines: 67
  15. green peas: 67
  16. pike: 65
  17. alaskan pollock: 65
  18. green onion: 65
  19. red cabbage: 65
  20. pacific cod: 64
  21. scallops: 64
  22. pink grapefruit: 64
  23. dandelion greens: 64
  24. frozen spinach: 64
  25. chili powder: 63
  26. basil: 63
  27. collards: 63
  28. clams: 62
  29. chili peppers: 62
  30. broccoli raab: 62
  31. kale: 62
  32. whiting: 61
  33. atlantic cod: 61
  34. mustard leaves: 61
  35. romaine lettuce: 61
  36. coriander: 61
  37. whitefish: 60
  38. fish roe: 60
  39. apricots: 60
  40. cress: 60
  41. chinese cabbage: 60
  42. sea bass: 59
  43. herring: 59
  44. parsley: 59
  45. fresh spinach: 59
  46. walnuts: 58
  47. red cherries: 58
  48. butter lettuce: 58
  49. cow peas: 58
  50. podded peas: 58
  51. plantain: 57
  52. navy beans: 57
  53. summer squash: 57
  54. coho salmon: 56
  55. blue fin tuna: 56
  56. eel: 56
  57. lima beans: 56
  58. taro leaves: 56
  59. green lettuce: 56
  60. green tomatoes: 56
  61. red tomatoes: 56
  62. paprika: 55
  63. chives: 55
  64. arugula: 55
  65. sockeye salmon: 54
  66. mackerel: 54
  67. grapefruit: 54
  68. golden kiwi fruit: 54
  69. green kiwi fruit: 54
  70. cayenne pepper: 54
  71. leeks: 54
  72. red leaf lettuce: 54
  73. green beans: 54
  74. perch: 53
  75. rainbow trout: 53
  76. sour cherries: 53
  77. pink salmon: 52
  78. pompano: 52
  79. kumquats: 52
  80. hubbard squash: 52
  81. carp: 51
  82. oranges: 51
  83. red currants: 51
  84. pomegranates: 51
  85. rhubarb: 51
  86. jalapeno peppers: 51
  87. winter squash: 51
  88. carrots: 51
  89. octopus: 50
  90. prunes: 50
  91. cantaloupe: 50
  92. water chestnuts: 50
  93. cauliflower: 50
  94. broccoli: 50
  95. brussels sprouts: 50
  96. burdock root : 50
  97. pumpkin: 50
  98. ginger: 49
  99. figs: 49
  100. sweet potato: 49
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 29, 2021 at 10:22 am | Edit
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Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 at 8:17 am | Edit
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Found on Facebook and enjoyed.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at 10:21 pm | Edit
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Feeling the time pressure here, so you you get a quick post today. I no longer remember how I happened upon this video, but the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fans among you (including Heather, pictured below) and/or jazz fans might enjoy it even more than I did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 at 11:20 am | Edit
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(Modified from something found on Facebook.)

Happy 2020 Thanksgiving to all!

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, November 26, 2020 at 8:30 am | Edit
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My father was an engineer with the General Electric Company.  He worked in several places, including Erie, Pennsylvania and Lynn, Massachusetts, and  maybe some others I don't know because that was before I was born. Later in life he worked at Valley Forge and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.  But for most of my childhood he was at company headquarters in Schenectady, New York.  He had a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and a master's in physics, and I almost never knew what he did in his job.  The genealogist in me regrets that I was so incurious, but he couldn't have told me anyway, as much of his work was classified.  Once, many years later, when were visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia (where in retirement he worked as a docent), he pointed to a photo in an exhibit on military airplanes and casually said, "That was one of my projects."

Dad didn't spend a lot of time on the road, but he did have "business trips" that took him around the country.  Again, I never knew what for—nor, as a child, was I aware of much besides the souvenirs he'd bring back with him.  It's hard to believe that he used to fly in prop planes, though I do remember him expressing his regret that the Schenectady Airport consigned itself to being a backwater of the Albany Airport when it chose not to make the runways long enough to accommodate jets.

By 1960, however, he was enjoying jet travel between here and California.  And I mean enjoying.  General Electric was not the kind of company to send engineers First Class, or even Business Class if they had had it back then.  But in those golden days of flying, Coach was a little different.  Here's what he wrote in his diary about one particular trip.

September 25, 1960

This morning I caught Eastern Airlines' 8:40 a.m. flight along with Renato Bobone from Albany to New York City and thence by Trans World Airlines' Boeing 707 jet to Los Angeles and a week in that city.  The flight, as is often the case in a jet, was rather uneventful.  We left New York at 11 a.m. with overcast weather and it was not long after we were on our way that dinner began.  It was interesting to note than TWA left a copy of Newsweek and Life on the table between each pair of seats for passengers’ reading.  A good idea.

Dinner started off with the usual two drinks.  Then a crabmeat cocktail with two glasses of white wine followed by dinner with two glasses of red wine or champagne.

Dinner was roast beef that I had trouble identifying.  I think it was roast tenderloin.  Anyway it was very good.  For dessert I ignored the calorific foods and had a bunch of grapes.  And coffee.

Not too long after this repast, we began flying over the mountains and I sat in the lounge to get some pictures.  I may have some fair ones.  The flight took us over the southern edge of the Grand Canyon, but haze may have prevented my pictures from being their best.  The desert was very interesting to watch.  It looks desolate, yet must contain much life.  I would like to be able to see it first hand and leisurely sometime.

We landed in Los Angeles about 12:20 Pacific Standard Time and we checked into the Hyatt House.  We rested a bit and then Renato and I took advantage of the Hyatt House swimming pool and the sunny day.  I also spent some time staring at the TV at the San Francisco - New York professional football game.  The Giants won 21-19.

(I confess my near-total ignorance of professional sports when I reveal that I laughed when I read that last line, since I assumed a San Francisco vs. New York game meant that somehow the Giants were playing the Giants.)

That really was the golden age of coach-class flying, with jet-speed travel, lots of room, and sumptious meals.  Not to mention at least six free drinks.  Plus, if his times were correct, I make the flight time from New York to Los Angeles at four and a half hours, at least an hour quicker than is standard today.

And yet it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops.  Here's what he wrote about the return flight.

I got on the plane about 10:00 and by after 10:30 the plane had not left.  Someone reported they were waiting for someone on a connecting flight, but the hostess said she didn't believe that was the real reason.  Eventually the agent came aboard and announced over the public address system, "All passengers please deplane immediately.  We have a bomb scare."  We all left right away with no excitement or panic.  We were locked in the waiting room while they removed the baggage and searched the plane.  They served jus coffee and pastry while we waited.

Eventually we were all interviewed by the FBI—the interview consisting of questions as to name, address, reason for trip, were we involved in a court action, had we reeived threats, might someone be playing a practical joke un us?  Then we identified our luggage, stood by while it was searched, and thence back to the plane.  We took off three hourse late.  The flight back was really uneventful, although as usual I got only about 2 hours' sleep.

We came to New York to find rather couldy skies and a moderate delay before we could land.  Since I had an 11 a.m. flight out of La Guardia [having landed at Idlewild], I was not anxious to see much in the way of delays.  We finally got off the plane at 10:15 but I did not get my bag until 10:30.  The cab driver said it was a 20 minute trip to La Guardia and he made it in 20 minutes.  I dashed to the Eastern Airlines counter and thence to the gate to find them just about to pull the stairs away from the plane.  I got aboard—but I was the last one to make it.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 9:30 am | Edit
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10-10-2020

I just think someone should take note of the date. It works in both America and Europe.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Edit
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