November 30, 2018 in 3,098 words


To set my mood • • •


Patagonia is giving its $10 million tax cut back to the planet


Patagonia has never been shy about its activism on behalf of the environment, whether through its 1% for the Planet initiative, giving a percentage of profits to grassroots environmental organizations, calling the president a liar on public lands protection, giving employees election day off, or becoming one of the first commercial brands to publicly endorse political candidates.

Now the outdoor apparel brand is giving back $10 million in tax cuts to grassroots environmental organizations. In a LinkedIn post today, CEO Rose Marcario wrote, “Based on last year’s irresponsible tax cut, Patagonia will owe less in taxes this year. We are responding by putting $10 million back into the planet because our home needs it more than we do.”

She sees any corporate gain from the latest corporate tax cut as dirty money. “Taxes protect the most vulnerable in our society, our public lands and other life-giving resources,” Marcario wrote. “In spite of this, the Trump administration initiated a corporate tax cut, threatening these services at the expense of our planet.”

Citing the government’s recent (and bleak) Climate Assessment report, Marcario echoed that the consequences of climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars in the not-so long-term. “Mega-fires. Toxic algae blooms. Deadly heat waves and deadly hurricanes. Far too many have suffered the consequences of global warming in recent months, and the political response has so far been woefully inadequate–and the denial is just evil,” she wrote.

Ed. I seriously need to examine the companies that I purchase things from.


Nobody knows why the Earth just rang like a bell

Seismic sensors first picked up the event originating near an island between Madagascar and Africa. Then, alarm bells started ringing as far away as Chile, New Zealand and Canada.

Hawaii, almost exactly on the other side of the planet, also picked up the “event.”

Nobody knows what it was.

Meteorite? Submarine volcano? Nuclear test?

“I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it,” National Geographic reports Columbia University seismologist Göran Ekström as saying. “It doesn’t mean that, in the end, the cause of them is that exotic.”

At the center of the mystery is the tiny island of Mayotte, positioned about halfway between Africa and Madagascar. It’s been subjected to a swarm of earthquakes since May. Most have been minor, but the biggest — on May 8 — was the largest in the island’s recorded history, topping at a magnitude of 5.8.


Inside The Focus Groups Who Determine What You See On TV

Focus groups are treated like a symbol of everything that’s wrong with Hollywood. Instead of taking creative risks, networks will put a new TV show in front of a bunch of random nobodies and either alter it to their whims or kill it altogether. It seems very weird and deeply unscientific, so we had to know more. We talked with Tyler, who has helped run focus groups for a whole bunch of shows, most of which never made it to your screens. He says …

6. Networks Will Try To Get The Answers They Want


The process sounds simple, if you’ve never actually done it. “We would lead people to rooms,” says Tyler, “they watch the pilot or episode, and to keep track, [they] all have a knob that goes from 0 to 100, 0 meaning no interest in a certain part to 100 for total interest. There’s also an option for them to ‘click off,’ which means it would be the part at which they would change the channel or choose to stop watching it.”

After that, there’s a list of questions, either written by the testers or the network. And here is where you start to see the ways an interested party can put their thumb on the scale. “We’ve been asked to treat something as ‘special’ before. You can tell they’re really pulling for a show or want to make a certain actor look good, or at least try to push them.”

Tyler specifically remembers actor Jason O’Mara, who’s starred in so many doomed TV shows that he’s basically an Irish Nathan Fillion. “Each year the questions got more and more desperate. They went from ‘What do you think about the main character?’ to ‘What don’t you like about the main character?’ to his last show we had that blatantly asked ‘Why don’t you like the main character?’ By the end, they were asking focus groups assuming they were going to hate him again. That’s how bad it got.”


Drilling starts to tap geothermal power from Cornwall’s hot rocks

Boreholes near Redruth would be UK’s deepest and could kickstart zero-carbon power source across country.


Drilling for geothermal power has started to tap the potential heat and electricity from Cornish hot rocks.

A trailblazing energy project has started drilling the UK’s deepest ever borehole in Cornwall in a bid to use heat from hot rocks as a zero-carbon source of electricity.

The team behind the £18m scheme hopes to create the UK’s first deep geothermal power station and ignite a renewed interest in the technology’s wider potential.

The project near Redruth involves two deep holes being drilled over a course of around six months. Drilling began on Tuesday, with one hole expected to be 1.6 miles (2.5km) deep and the other as far as 2.8 miles (4.5km) down, which would be a UK record for a borehole.

Water will then be pumped into the shallower well, where it should be heated by naturally fractured hot rocks deep underground, hitting temperatures of up to 195C.

The heated water then comes to the surface via the deeper well, with heat used to produce water vapour that turns a turbine and generates electricity. The water is then injected underground and the cycle starts again.


Photosynthesis Makes a Sound

The ping of algae turning sunlight into energy adds to the soundscape of marine ecosystems.


Photosynthesizing algae produce bubbles, which make a sound that could one day be used to acoustically assess the health of marine ecosystems.

Teasing sounds apart in an underwater habitat is like trying to listen for the crackle of a single street light in the middle of Times Square. So when scientists thought they heard the sound of algae on a coral reef, their hunch was met with some skepticism. How could something seemingly so sedentary ring out over some of the ocean’s chattiest (and most flatulent) inhabitants, sloshing waves, and noisy humans? With bubbles, it turns out.

Like the plants that help us breathe, algae also photosynthesize. Underwater, that process of converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and oxygen sends tiny bubbles spiraling toward the surface. And according to new research, when each bubble detaches from the seaweed, it goes ping. The scientists behind the discovery suggest that, like a heartbeat heard through a stethoscope, measuring that unique sound could be a new way to monitor the health of a coral reef.

Spouses Lauren and Simon Freeman, oceanographers with the US Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Rhode Island, first noticed the strange pings in the Hawaiian Islands. They perceived that the soundscape of healthy, protected reefs was dominated by low-frequency sounds (the kind typically made by fish and other large animals), while degraded reefs were noticeably higher pitched.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: “We were told the sound was from snapping shrimp, end of story!”


5 Crazy Hollywood Coincidences (You’ve Never Heard Before)

Hollywood history is full of fun coincidences and interesting side details, like certain actors repeatedly appearing in the same movies or the fact that every celebrity credits their success to a pact with the same ancient snake god. But sometimes it gets even weirder than that. Just look at how …

5. Rival Helicopter Pilots Covering The O.J. Simpson Chase Both Later Came Out As Transgender


When O.J. Simpson, the famous soccer player and star of Capricorn One, fled from police on June 17, 1994, it was huge news. It interrupted the NBA finals, putting annoyed basketball fans among the 95 million Americans who watched the pursuit live. And two helicopter pilots, Dana Vahle and Zoey Tur, were transmitting every moment for rival news stations. Two years earlier, both had covered the uprising in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, presumably while throwing things at each other from their helicopters while trying to get the better angle. Their on-the-job rivalry was serious, with Tur thinking Vahle a jerk. But then later they learned that they had an unlikely kinship.

At the time, Tur was known as Bob, and Vahle was known as Dick. Both were married with children, but neither felt happy, and both eventually realized why. The ’80s and ’90s were not a welcoming time for transgender people (not that it’s a cakewalk now). Vahle’s initial steps toward transitioning cost her a job and her marriage, and Tur struggled with depression and suicidal ideation.

But Vahle committed to transitioning in 2011, and Tur followed suit in 2013. Today they’re friends and are both much happier, even though they’ve lost other friends, struggled in their careers, and have written off their own generation as being incapable of understanding them. But they have hope for the future. Indeed, most media coverage of their stories has been positive and respectful. Most of it.

Stay classy, TMZ.


Bowel movement: the push to change the way you poo

Are you sitting comfortably? Many people are not – and they insist that the way we’ve been going to the toilet is all wrong.

For their 27th wedding anniversary, the Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston gave his wife, Robin, a gift that promises “to give you the best poop of your life, guaranteed”. The Squatty Potty is a wildly popular seven-inch-high plastic stool, designed by a devout Mormon and her son, which curves around the base of your loo. By propping your feet on it while you crap, you raise your knees above your hips. From this semi-squat position, the centuries-old seated toilet is transformed into something more primordial, like a hole in the ground. The family that makes the Squatty Potty says this posture unfurls your colon and gives your faecal matter a clear run from your gut to the bowl, reducing bloating, constipation and the straining that causes haemorrhoids. Musing about the gift on one of America’s daytime talk shows in 2016, Cranston said: “Elimination is love.”

More than 5m Squatty Potties have been sold since they first crept on to the market in 2011. Celebrities such as Sally Field and Jimmy Kimmel have raved about them, and the basketball sensation Stephen Curry put one in every bathroom of his house. “I had, like, a full elimination,” Howard Stern, the celebrity shock jock, said after he first used one, in 2013. “It was unbelievable. I felt empty. I was like, ‘Holy shit.’” The Squatty Potty has been the subject of jokes on Saturday Night Live, and of adulation by the queen of drag queens, RuPaul. This January, after Squatty Potty LLC hit $33m in annual revenues, the business channel CNBC, which helped bring the footstool to fame through its US version of Dragon’s Den, hailed the device as a “cult juggernaut”.

The Squatty Potty’s success is partly down to “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop”, an online ad that launched in October 2015 and has since been viewed more than 100m times. In the video, a fey cartoon unicorn, its rear hooves perched upon a Squatty Potty, Mr-Whippies rainbow-coloured soft-serve ice-cream out of its butt and into cake cones while an Elizabethan Prince Charming details the benefits of squatting to poop. (“I scream, you scream, and plop, plop baby!”) At the end of the video, the prince serves the ice-cream to a gaggle of kids. (“How does it taste, is that delicious? Is that the best thing you’ve ever had in your life?”)

At first, many people saw the footstool as little more than a joke Christmas present.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Prepare to spend a while; it’s The Long Read.

Ed. Please don’t read this on your phone while you’re squatting over the toilet. The thought is gross.

Ed. That last link was inserted by me… in case you’re looking for something special for someone who is extra special.

Ed. I should be ashamed of myself for inserting a link to Amazon just days after positing that we should be closing our Amazon Prime accounts because we’re making Jeff Bezos so fucking rich supporting a corporation that treats its workers like overutilized, underpaid, underappreciated robots is wrong.

POINT OF REFLECTION: Perhaps I shouldn’t have struck out that jab about making Jeff Bezos so fucking rich.

Ed. I’m only a little bit high this morning.


Experience: I won a pub on TV

I was working as a musician in London and the idea of pulling pints in the country was romantic. So I filled in the application.


Stuart Royan: ‘We had only a fortnight to prove ourselves.’

In the early days of reality television, I would get emails about contestant callouts. In 2005, one arrived entitled Country Pub. It offered a “life-changing” opportunity for couples to compete on a new daytime show to run a pub. I was working as a musician in London and the idea of chatting to locals and pulling pints in the countryside was romantic.

My partner, Monia, and I procrastinated until the night before the deadline when, slightly tipsy, I filled in the application, trying to be witty in an effort to stand out. I must have done something right because we were invited to a filmed interview. I was 30 and Monia was 25. The production team were looking for two couples to run the pub for two weeks each. As the narrator said when it aired: “The couple who do best will leave their old life behind and become the new landlord and landlady.”

A few days later, the producer came to our flat. I was getting quite excited, but at Christmas I got a call to say we weren’t going to be taken on and would be kept on the reserve list. We forgot all about it. But a few months later we were told the first couple had pulled out and they wanted us to step in. We had to come up with a theme and decided on a music pub serving Italian food.

As we drove to the Royal Oak, in Plymouth, I could see the sea; it really sold the dream. The pub was on Hooe Lake; the clientele were a mixed bag but the place was beautiful. It was intense and tiring – the film crew arrived when we woke and stayed till last orders – but we knew what we were letting ourselves in for. We even sat the British Institute of Innkeepers exam to get our licences before filming began.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Once upon a time, an economically depressed and largely forgotten town in the Balkans experienced a digital gold rush. The average monthly salary in Veles, Macedonia, had been $371; now young denizens were earning up to $16,000.

The year was 2016, and the gold was fake news.

The idea that fake news most likely helped Donald Trump get elected is, well, old news. An Ohio University study published in April suggested that fake news dissuaded 4 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters from voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. But the extent to which a network of Macedonian teens remotely influenced the U.S. presidential election is still being uncovered.

“Hey, Macedonian teenagers,” yelled Stephen Colbert in a segment from The Late Show that aired on November 16, 2016. “Why can’t you just do normal teenager stuff? Knock it off!”

One teenager did knock it off, but only after he learned of the havoc his and his peers’ actions had wreaked on a democracy thousands of miles away. The filmmaker Kate Stonehill calls him “Sashko,” though that’s not his real name. Stonehill tells his story in her short documentary, “Fake News Fairytale,” which premieres on The Atlantic today.


Twelve years after South Park’s classic ManBearPig episode, Al Gore breaks his silence on the beast and his feelings about its return.


A gender reveal party sparks a wildfire, Ohio allows businesses to pay their taxes with Bitcoin, and Salvation Army bell ringers attract attention for their racist attire.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.


In confessing his own crimes, Michael Cohen has exposed potential wrongdoing by his former boss. Again.


Roger Stone’s associate Jerome Corsi seems to believe that saying the word ‘pardon’ three times will cause an embattled president to appear.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.


あの隅だけ、いたぶりたくなるらしい。Hana wants to torment only that corner of the rug.


もちろん入ってます。Maru loves boxes!


FINALLY . . .

Victor’s heart

Longmont resident needs help to get transplant that would save his life.

Victor, who emigrated from Guatemala in 1999, always carries a letter from his doctor, just in case. From Salud Medical Center in Longmont, Victor’s doctor of more than 10 years, Dr. Michael Allen, says, “I am writing this letter in regards to Victor’s complex cardiac medical problems and to be his advocate in regards to citizenship and the high risk prognosis on his health if he is forced to return to Guatemala in regards to his citizenship.”

With a diagnosis of severe cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure, which consequently leads to a long list of other health issues, Dr. Allen says that if Victor is returned to Guatemala, he “has a very high risk of death.”

But in reality, Victor, 36, isn’t really worried about immigration authorities or his undocumented status or the possibility of deportation. Right now, all he’s worried about is what would happen to his wife and daughters if he can’t get the heart transplant he so desperately needs.

“If something happens to me, what is she going to do to sustain them?” Victor says, looking at his wife, Estella, in their Longmont living room. Their daughters Ailin, 10, and Yaretzi, 5, are giggling and watching TV in the next room.


Ahem • • •

BIRDJANITOR.COM is becoming a secure site. I’ve purchased a SSL Certificate for this klunker. As a result, some of the media embedded in posts prior to today will no longer appear on the screen and will be replaced with blank space.

Going forward you may be pleased to know that the (mostly) one-way transfer of errant ramblings barely uninteresting at all things will be delivered in an encrypted form.

Whatever purpose this accomplishes has yet to be determined.


Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Probably Not? Another Groundhog Day.