Technology Prevails Over Biofilm


Quasi Renaissance Man

This makes me rather happy:

The National Park Service has concluded a successful test using laser ablation as a means of removing biofilm that has darkened the dome of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The test paves the way to ultimately clean the rest of the memorial.

The full press release is here, on the National Park service website.

A company out of Chicago, Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, Inc., seems to have developed a laser ablation technique delicate enough to clean a 3,500 year obelisk, buildings, graffiti off petroglyphs, and now, national monuments.

I like this because 1) the Jefferson is one of my favorite monuments (1st Secretary of State, you know) 2) the building is in desperate need of a cleaning (it has visibly gotten grey-er in the year since I’ve been here, and I go by it almost every day) and 3) it shows the…

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By the Bones of St. Nicholas! | Aliens in This World

The Turkish government and local organizations from Demre (“The Santa Claus Peace Council,” run by local Muslim boosters such as the Muslim guy who has the keys to the church) have periodically pressured Italy and the Vatican to have the bones of St. Nicholas repatriated from Bari. But since it’s still a Muslim country, and since only a tiny number of Orthodox Christians have been allowed to move into Myra and have very occasional Masses at the shrine, nobody is very interested in depriving Bari of St. Nick.

OTOH, the rivalry between Venice and Bari came to a surprise ending in the twentieth century, when it was discovered and confirmed by various tests that the bones and bone fragments all belonged to the same guy.

Over the last decade or so, archaeologists have been digging out the buried city of Myra, focusing on the old basilica. The archaeologists recently sent out a press release, announcing that with ground-penetrating radar, they have found the area which was once St. Nicholas’ shrine. Good job!

However, they have allegedly announced that they have found St. Nicholas’ bones, which seems… unlikely.


Source: By the Bones of St. Nicholas! | Aliens in This World


Go read the whole thing.

The Case of Yuri Dmitriev, Grave-Hunter, in Russia | National Review

Dmitriev is an unusual man, to say the least. He is cranky, stubborn, and righteous. He grew his hair long and grew a long beard to go with it. His friends started to call him “Gandalf,” after the wizard in The Lord of the Rings. Picture Dmitriev going off on a dig in his threadbare jalopy (a Niva). He is smoking Belomor cigarettes (nasty). With him is his faithful German shepherd, Veda, a variation on Ved’ma, which means “Witch.” Dmitriev gave the dog that name because he found her on Friday the 13th.

Arriving in a village, he would not approach the people in charge. The authorities, if you will. He would approach the grandmothers, the old ladies. And he would not bring up his subject directly. Instead, he’d say, “Tell me: Where are people afraid to go around here? Where are the forbidden places? The haunted places?” They would tell him. And this led to graves.

Dmitriev played a major role in discovering the site known as Sandarmokh, outside the town of Medvezhyegorsk, in Karelia. At Sandarmokh, more than 9,000 people were buried. They were murdered in 1937 and 1938. Some 1,100 of the 9,000 came from the Solovki prison camp, which Alexander Solzhenitsyn would dub “the mother of the Gulag.” Among the 9,000 were some 60 nationalities. Let’s have a few names, shall we? Father Peter Weigel, a Volga German priest. Nikita Remnev, a carpenter. Prince Yasse Andronikov, a military officer, actor, and theater director. Camilla Krushelnitskaya, an organizer of the Catholic underground.

The name Yuri Dmitriev, by the way, is revered by the families of the dead — the discovered.

Every year at Sandarmokh, there is a Day of Remembrance. It is August 5 (the day of the site’s discovery). For years, Russian officialdom supported this day, and participated in it. Gradually, they fell away, as the government adopted a different tone. In the months before his arrest, Dmitriev felt that they would come for him. He sensed that he was being monitored. When he related this to his daughter Katia, she said, “Oh, Dad, stop being James Bond!”

Source: The Case of Yuri Dmitriev, Grave-Hunter, in Russia | National Review

Anybody surprised that Russia is still Russia…..

The TOF Spot: The Herstory of Hypatia

The Christians of the cities of the Eastern Empire had invented something new: what we would call today a combination hospital/hospice/homeless shelter. The task of the parabolani was to patrol the mean streets of old Alexandria looking for homeless people and bring them into the shelters. Then, as now, many were disinclined to do so, often violently disinclined. Hence, the name parabolani, which means “persons who risk their lives as nurses” (Late Latin: parabalānī, from Ancient Greek: παραβολᾶνοι or παράβολοι). In addition to performing works of mercy they constituted a bodyguard for the bishop.

Source: The TOF Spot: The Herstory of Hypatia

I thought this was pretty cool– as cool as when I found out that “usher” is actually an ancient, important and traditional job in the Mass. (Who kept the violent guys trying to attack the Body of Christ out?  There are several martyrs in England for this, too– they kept the attackers out until the Body of Christ couldn’t be profaned…and stopped.)

Did Australia’s ban on guns lower violent crime rates and lower suicide rates?

Rather than write it myself…. go read Wintery’s summary of the ban guns idea.


Gun ownership up, gun violence down Gun ownership up, gun violence down

Someone asked me about what I thought of Australia’s experience banning the use of handguns for self-defense against criminals, and so I thought I would link to an article from The Federalist, then explain what peer-reviewed studies say about the issue.

Let’s start with The Federalist.

It says:

The argument, as Vox’s headline puts it, is “Australia confiscated 650,000 guns. Murders and suicides plummeted.”

The piece, along with many gun control advocates, cites a Harvard University study whose conclusion begins with this line: “It does not appear that the Australian experience with gun buybacks is fully replicable in the United States.” Not a great start for Vox’s angle, but I digress.

The study doesn’t conclude that “murders and suicides plummeted” in Australia after the 1996 gun ban, as Vox claims in its headline. Instead, it focuses solely on firearm-related murders and suicides.


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NY Times: Sure Mao killed millions but he made great feminist propaganda – Hot Air Hot Air

Mr Dikötter, who has been studying Chinese rural history from 1958 to 1962, when the nation was facing a famine, compared the systematic torture, brutality, starvation and killing of Chinese peasants to the Second World War in its magnitude. At least 45 million people were worked, starved or beaten to death in China over these four years; the worldwide death toll of the Second World War was 55 million.

Mr Dikötter is the only author to have delved into the Chinese archives since they were reopened four years ago. He argued that this devastating period of history – which has until now remained hidden – has international resonance. “It ranks alongside the gulags and the Holocaust as one of the three greatest events of the 20th century…. It was like [the Cambodian communist dictator] Pol Pot’s genocide multiplied 20 times over,” he said…

State retribution for tiny thefts, such as stealing a potato, even by a child, would include being tied up and thrown into a pond; parents were forced to bury their children alive or were doused in excrement and urine, others were set alight, or had a nose or ear cut off. One record shows how a man was branded with hot metal. People were forced to work naked in the middle of winter; 80 per cent of all the villagers in one region of a quarter of a million Chinese were banned from the official canteen because they were too old or ill to be effective workers, so were deliberately starved to death.

Source: NY Times: Sure Mao killed millions but he made great feminist propaganda – Hot Air Hot Air

The great leap forward.

Nerve implant ‘restores consciousness’ to man in persistant vegetative state | Science | The Guardian

Since sustaining severe brain injuries in a car accident, the man had been completely unaware of the world around him. But when fitted with an implant to stimulate the vagus nerve, which travels into the brain stem, the man appeared to flicker back into a state of consciousness.

He started to track objects with his eyes, began to stay awake while being read a story and his eyes opened wide in surprise when the examiner suddenly moved her face close to the patient’s. He could even respond to some simple requests, such as turning his head when asked – although this took about a minute.

Source: Nerve implant ‘restores consciousness’ to man in persistant vegetative state | Science | The Guardian

A former sailor's ramblings on anything from family, country and Church through general geek-ness.