Sunday, February 28, 2021

Blight wiped out the extremely useful chestnut trees in Appalachia, but there's an effort to engineer a hardier species

Long article by Kate Morgan for the Sierra Club:

Between 1904 and 1940, some 3.5 billion American chestnut trees, the giants of the Appalachian hardwood forest, succumbed to a fungal blight called Cryphonectria parasitica.

The loss was stunning—not just for sprawling ecosystems across much of the eastern United States, where the tree was a keystone species, but also for the Appalachian way of life.

...

By almost any metric, the American chestnut was a perfect tree. Massive, fast-growing, and rot-resistant, it was easy to mill into cabin logs, furniture, fence posts, and railroad ties. After being harvested, it resprouted; in 20 years, it was ready for the sawyer again. Wide limbs spanned the canopy, filtering sunlight and creating a diverse, layered forest below. Sweet, acorn-size nuts fed squirrels, deer, raccoons, and bears. Cooper's hawks nested in the high branches, wild turkeys in the lower forks. Insects thrived in the craggy bark, which was naturally tannic and a good choice for preserving hides. Cherokee people made dough from the crushed nuts, treated heart troubles with the leaves, and dressed wounds with astringent brewed from the sprouts. And in the fall, when the chestnuts piled up in carpets half a foot thick, white settler families collected and sold them by the bushel. 

....

The American chestnut does have one defense mechanism against the blight: While the tree aboveground dies, often what's beneath the soil remains viable. Chestnut roots in Appalachian forests are constantly shooting up new sprouts. They resemble shrubs more than trees—live stems clustered around a dry, dead one, with serrated oval leaves that pop, golden yellow, against the underbrush. There are an estimated 430 million wild American chestnuts still growing in their native range, and while the majority of them are less than an inch in diameter, they're easy to find if you know what you're looking for. But even these persistent saplings are doomed. Most survive only five or 10 years before the blight gets them too.

Bloomberg profiled a prolific sneaker reseller and accidentally discovered his mother was a Nike VP

Bloomberg offers a long look at how the sneaker reselling business works:

The day these Yeezys were released, he’d awoken at 3 a.m., signed on to the messaging platform Discord, and rousted 15 members of his “cook group,” a term sneaker resellers use to describe their allies in arbitrage. When the shoes went on sale an hour later, [his] team swarmed the Yeezy Supply website using specialized computer programs such as Cybersole, Kodai, and GaneshBot, each prepped with [his] credit card information and capable of gaming a system meant to limit purchases to one pair per customer. By 6 a.m. the shoes were sold out, and [his] bots had rung up $132,000 on his American Express. His company, West Coast Streetwear, resold the shoes in almost as little time as it had taken to buy them, clearing $20,000 in profit. “Anything that’s releasing that I know I can make a guaranteed buck on, I’m gonna go full into,” [he] said. “That’s just my style.”

...

[His] competitors have access to the same bot software and StockX-borne real-time market research as he does. What they don’t have, according to some of his subscribers, is consistent, sound analysis of what shoes to buy, how to get them, and, crucially, how long resellers might expect demand to persist. [He] declined to talk about his sources of information, but he did say he was lucky to have grown up in Portland, where both Nike and Adidas base their U.S. operations. “If you know the right people here, this is the city to sell shoes,” he said. The right people “can give you access to stuff that, like, a normal person would not have access to.”

...

I’d learned, quite by accident [his mother had] worked at Nike for 25 years and had recently been made its vice president and general manager for North America. The press release announcing her promotion noted that she would be “instrumental in accelerating our Consumer Direct Offense”—the Nike initiative that had helped fuel the sneaker-resale boom. 

...

When I asked [him] about the connection later that year, he acknowledged that [she] was his mother and said that, while she’d inspired him as a businessperson, she was so high up at Nike as to be removed from what he does, and that he’d never received inside information such as discount codes from her. He insisted, though, that she not be mentioned in the article and cut off contact not long after our conversation.

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Brutal child's drawing of a reporter; Dark Troopers custom figures; More demon chef









Samus updated; Female Jedi skin for Fallen Order; A funky performance of P5's Whims of Fate







Saturday, February 27, 2021

Great outdoor training footage from the UFC 259 Countdown special

Starting around 18:40, one competitor endures a natural ice bath during a Polish winter, while the other works on his breathing at the beach in New Zealand in mid-summer:

Epic ending to a children's basketball game

A look at the fighting in Libya as the “world’s largest theater for drone technology"

The Washington Post has a long article about the ongoing competition between Russia and Turkey to divide up Libya:

The concentration of weapons and multiethnic militias on sparse, desert terrain draws comparisons to George Lucas films. “It’s like the Star Wars bar scene,” a former U.S. official said.

...

To prop up Hifter’s ragtag operation, Russia printed billions in Libyan currency for him to pay out to regional militias, a gambit exposed when shipping containers stuffed with counterfeit notes were seized on a vessel in Malta.

...

The Russian Pantsir S-1 is a four-axle truck mounted with 10-foot missiles capable of shooting enemy aircraft — including drones — out of the sky. Hifter had a fleet of them, reportedly purchased by the UAE, and Russian operatives to show his forces how to use them.

The systems were expected to be among the most valuable pieces that Wagner brought to the fight, protecting Hifter’s ground forces from aerial attack as they advanced toward Tripoli across flat, exposed terrain.

Then, one by one, the Pantsirs started getting picked off. Turkish drones toyed with the lumbering vehicles, tracking their movements and turning them into charred husks. Adding to the humiliation for Wagner and Hifter, highlight reels started appearing online showing Pantsir after Pantisr stray into a Turkish drone’s sights, then disappear in a plume of smoke.

The Carrington Event was a huge solar storm that caused auroras all over the world (and mass destruction)


By the following evening, the particles from those flares had reached Earth, and the sky was ablaze with auroras—the northern (and southern) lights. In the Rocky Mountains, campers woke and started making breakfast at midnight; a man in New Orleans went hunting at 1 a.m. From North America to East Asia, Hawaii to Colombia, Brisbane to Cape Town, crowds stayed up all night to stare at the razzle-dazzle

...

In 1859, the global telegraph network had more than 200,000 kilometers of cables, mostly in North America and Europe. As the storm peaked, operators from San Francisco to Bombay found their cables and equipment overwhelmed by the “auroral current.” In New York City, one man was left stunned by an “arc of fire” that shot off a ground wire onto his forehead; an operator in Pittsburgh saw “streams of fire” pouring from his circuits as they nearly melted. Telegraph operators in Boston and Portland, Maine, disconnected their batteries but found the storm current was enough to power the line on its own, while across the world messages were blocked, their signals overwhelmed. Normal service only resumed after several days, as the flux faded and equipment was repaired. 

The Carrington Event happened before mass electrification. Today, the world is criss-crossed by billions of kilometers of cables

 ...

The most dangerous place for satellites to be during a storm is in low-Earth orbit, on the edge of the atmosphere where geomagnetic flux is high. Satellites from the likes of NASA are hardened against all but the worst disruptions, but the last few years have seen the rise of programs like SpaceX’s Starlink, with fleets of thousands of relatively cheap, unhardened, and seemingly unreliable micro-satellites

...

There’s tree ring evidence to suggest that bigger-than-1859 storms—possibly 20 times larger—occurred in both 774 CE and 5480 BCE, but such evidence is inconsistent. 

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This week's best Warhammer 40k miniatures (and other hobby creations)






















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Friday, February 26, 2021

You can spend a significant portion of Baldur's Gate 3 exclusively as a badger

Fraser Brown for PCGamer on the druid class's ability to turn into various animals, including a large badger:

Larian [Studio]'s given all of these critters a lot of love already, including completely unnecessary and extremely welcome things like animation and poses for sitting on chairs.

...

If you, like me, want to spend as much time as possible as a badger, there are some limitations. You can climb, jump, loot, open doors and most of the things you'll be able to do normally, but you'll need to turn back to your regular shape if you want to talk to people. In cutscenes and unskippable conversations, you'll temporarily drop your animal disguise, but once it's over you'll shapeshift again. Most of the time, though, you'll have to manually break the spell and waste a charge.

To make up for not being understood by humans, elves and the like, you can chat to absolutely every animal whenever you're shapeshifted. They all seem to know you're not quite what you appear to be, and in some cases you'll just get a line of dialogue telling you to piss off, but some of them will be willing to chat and maybe offer you advice or share a secret. They're all brilliant.

Power Rangers Super Cyborg Megazord with transparent effect available for preorder

A clever creation from Super 7:





There's also a Cobra B.A.T. in the same line.

Adorable Star Wars Interrogator Droid Pin by Scott C.

For Gallery 1988:



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Sleeping Beauty cake; This would be good packaging for organic food; A profile of the designer of Fry's Electronics











Diablo 3's demon is kawaii; They were inspired by Fallout because they couldn't afford a console to play Final Fantasy; Clues that your studio is about to make mass layoffs






(Source.)





Victor's distinctive moves explained; Jen Bartel remakes a FFVII screenshot; New Jet Grind Radio trailer














Thursday, February 25, 2021

Better timebending in this Tiktok than in Tenet; Absolutely charming BB8 figurine; Deactivate that robot dog







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