Nationally, people of color are nearly twice as likely as white people to live within one mile of facilities that use and store chemicals so dangerous that facility operators must submit risk management plants to the government. Children of color make up nearly two-thirds of the 5.7 million children living near these high-risk facilities, and poor people of color are significantly more likely to live near massive stockpiles of dangerous chemicals than white people living above the poverty line.

In the event of a toxic release, spill or explosion, communities of color would face the brunt of the impact, according to a recent report by the Center for Effective Government. 

Environmentalists and community activists have observed similar patterns near other sources of pollution over the years, including landfills and… power plants… Researchers at the University of Michigan published twin studies in January showing that low-income people and people of color don’t end up living near hazardous waste sites and other polluters because housing is cheap. Instead, their communities are disproportionately targeted by industries that follow “the path of least resistance” when deciding where to build facilities.

Story time. Hennig Brand was a German alchemist in the mid 1600s. I’m not saying he was a gold digger — but he did marry first one rich lady, and then, after her death, a second rich lady. And he used their money to literally try to make gold.

Back then, a lot of people thought you could change worthless materials into precious metals. And Brand was convinced he could distill gold from a golden substance that he encountered every day: human urine.

He used his wife’s money to build a basement laboratory, and employed his stepson as a lab assistant. Then, he started collecting.

Accounts from the time don’t go into detail about where Brand got his raw material, or what his basement smelled like, or what the stepson thought of his new dad. But they do suggest that Brand stockpiled something like 1,500 gallons of urine. Then he set to work. One of the surviving accounts of the process begins:

Take a good large Quantity of New-made Urine of Beer-drinkers and evaporate it gently to the consistency of honey.

I’ll spare you the rest — it involved lots of boiling and cooking and waiting.

In the end, Brand’s persistence paid off. He didn’t make gold, but he did end up with a white, waxy substance that glowed in the dark. He had stumbled upon the element phosphorus. The name, appropriately, starts with “p.”

Phosphorus, it turns out, is an incredibly powerful element. It has been used in deadly explosives (including a few bombs that destroyed Brand’s Hamburg neighborhood in 1943) and in the synthetic fertilizers that help feed the world.

Throughout history, curious minds have turned mistakes, coincidences and surprises like the discovery of phosphorus into important scientific insights.

Now Skunk Bear is looking for modern examples. We’d like you to send us your stories of happy accidents in the lab and in the field that led to interesting discoveries. Or maybe such stories from your friends or professors or students or colleagues — or just modern cases of scientific luck you’ve heard about. They don’t have to be earth-shattering — serendipity can work in tiny ways.

Our favorite stories will be honored in an awards show later this month, and one twice-lucky scientist will receive a trophy I carved myself — The Golden Mole Award For Accidental Brilliance.


I’d like to talk for a second about my favorite super minor no-name character in Tokyo Ghoul - Ex-Mercenary Aogiri Sniper Guy.

(he appears only in TG ch. 60)

When Aogiri took the 11th wards CCG base, they managed to get their hands on guns. A fair amount of them, apparently. Guns are really rare in Japan. It’s super hard to legally own one as a civilian, and even most criminal enterprises tend not to use them, much less stockpile them. The police carry small handguns that are rarely used. The CCG, though, in the fictional Japan of Tokyo Ghoul, clearly carry much heavier stuff to shoot its Q-Bullets.

So Aogiri got its hands on that. The CCG would have known that. They still didn’t anticipate this kind of threat. The chatter of the CCG investigators implies that they assume that Aogiri wouldn’t know enough to be able to effectively operate the guns they seized (even though we know the internet, and thus youtube tutorials of Americans doing irresponsible things with these weapons exists and is accessible…)

They assume this guy taught them. He also, presumably, taught them how to fire in formation with shielding and cover.

What amazes me is that the CCG seems vaguely impressed and surprised that a ghoul would be a mercenary. 

This is such a wonderful small world building detail. It’s true that of the people talking, the highest ranked are Shinohara and Marude - it’s not like Washuu Tsuneyoshi is standing there going “Huh… Ghouls in the Defense Force… I never thought of that one…” but still.

These guys have dedicated their lives to dealing with ghouls and serving their country (well, city). I wonder if the thought never crossed their mind because of the strange relationship Japan has with its Defense Force <weird post-WWII politics> haha, totally not a military, we don’t have a military because the Allied Forces wrote our constitution and literally made one unconstitutional whaatttttttttt </weird post-WWII politics>.

Because you just know if this series were New York Ghoul, there’d be rumors about the military using Ghouls as special forces because c’mon. They’re bullet-proof, super fast, super strong, have superior senses, and as the CCG chatter points out, there’s no need to feed them or worry about food. Even more so if you need to get rid of bodies for (fictional depictions of) Special Forces reasons.

There is so much world building potential wrapped up in the few panels before Suzuya’s wonderful take down of this guy.

He holds the entire operation still for three hours.

Are ghoul mercenaries a well known phenomenon in the field of international security and defense?

Do a bunch of countries have secret ghoul troops? Are there international laws about using ghouls as uniformed soldiers? Is it considered a war crime? I assume Ghouls are explicitly denied human rights by international standards, given the CCG has associated branches in Germany and China at least and seems to be well accepted. So I assume ghoul soldiers would not be allowed as it would complicate the laws of war.

So is the obvious use of ghouls “under the radar” a kind of open secret? Are there ghouls who serve proudly and patriotically or do most if not all do so because it’s better than death and only because they have collars full of explosives and RC suppressants? If the former, how might a ghoul sign up or even hear about such a thing? What would make them make that choice? Are there ghouls raised for such a thing?

We know ghouls are born with the same capacity for moral reasoning and empathy and a sense of justice as humans are (or so we are led to believe by Yoshimura). So do you think there are Ghouls who volunteer to fight on the side of various unofficial fighting forces? Liberation movements and freedom fighters? In the Tokyo Ghoul universe, are there Ghouls fighting with Daesh and Ghouls fighting with the peshmerga? (Despite the fact that neither side is probably very welcoming or at all non-hostile to ghouls? Or do they maybe do it precisely because it’s an easy source of food that appeases their conscience?)

If you’re thinking “Why, it almost sounds like you’ve devoted a fair amount of time to constructing hypothetical answers to these questions,” I’d say “Hush, you don’t know what kind of hole you’re digging there, my friend.”

Consider how she put it all together. There’s been no speaking for almost two years. On social media she’s been radio silent for weeks. […] There wasn’t anything, NOTHING, resembling a glitch when Beyoncé’s in control. The minute Formation showed up on her website,, the merchandising was available with all the tag phrases that she already knew would be the new vocabulary. The YouTube was up. The Tidal downloads streamed smoothly. […]
If Beyoncé is going on tour, it means Beyoncé is ready. It means the album is done. It means she probably has stockpiled her videos. The choreography is set. Dates and venues booked. Tickets ready for pre-sale tomorrow. All of that kept undercover until SHE was ready to boss that sh-t out. So, you know, for anyone, ahem Camille Pagila, still assuming that Beyoncé doesn’t run Beyoncé? You must not know ‘bout me. […]
As a student of pop culture, worship Beyoncé for the way she’s managing her brand. Worship her for her restraint. The fact that she knows how to hold back while indulging her own narcissism is a beautiful thing. Almost three years ago now, I went to the Mrs Carter tour with 3 friends, 2 of whom were very pregnant. It was the full heat of summer. They stayed standing the entire time. Like their bodies refused to let them sit, even if they would have wanted to. This weekend, after Beysus dropped Formation, we were all texting back and forth about that memory. About how their children experienced Beyoncé in utero. And about how when they grow up, they’ll be able to brag about being pre-conscious of Beyoncé in the time of Beyoncé.
—  Beyonce’s Formation, Lainey.

Just got finished listing these guys on Etsy!

So here’s the deal with these cuties. My parents run a high end furniture store and have over the years stockpiled a small treasure-trove of discontinued fabric swatches. I’ve finally comes up with something to use them for! My lochness monsters are one of a kind, since a swatch is small enough to only be able to make one plush. I love making them, it’s so fun! However, since they’re all made of upholstery fabric, they aren’t very soft and some of them are imperfect due to the type of fabric they’re made from (each is different).

The pattern is the lovely BeeZeeArt’s lochness pattern. So easy and cute! @beezeeart

3 of them are for sale, the beige one was just too cute for me to give up!
When The Bankers Plotted To Overthrow FDR
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was subject to the kind of vitriol we often see directed at Barack Obama today. But some of FDR's opponents didn't stop at talk: a new book details a starting plot to overthrow FDR and replace him with a fascist military government.

Critics on the right worried that Roosevelt was a Communist, a socialist or the tool of a Jewish conspiracy. Critics on the left complained his policies didn’t go far enough. Some of Roosevelt’s opponents didn’t stop at talk. Though it’s barely remembered today, there was a genuine conspiracy to overthrow the president.

The Wall Street Putsch, as it’s known today, was a plot by a group of right-wing financiers.

“They thought that they could convince Roosevelt, because he was of their, the patrician class, they thought that they could convince Roosevelt to relinquish power to basically a fascist, military-type government,” Denton says.

“It was a cockamamie concept,” she adds, “and the fact that it even got as far as it did is pretty shocking.”

The conspirators had several million dollars, a stockpile of weapons and had even reached out to a retired Marine general, Smedley Darlington Butler, to lead their forces.

“Had he been a different kind of person, it might have gone a lot further,” Denton says. “But he saw it as treason and he reported it to Congress.”


Historical Trivia: Rubber For Binoculars 

At the outbreak of the First World War it quickly became clear on both sides that despite their stockpiles and industrial capacities there were certain resources that they would soon be short of.

For Britain this was binoculars, used by officers and artillery observers to spot targets and gauge accuracy. However, Britain’s ability to make high grade lens and glass for these field glasses was limited. Germany before the war had been the European leader in many chemical and industrial sectors. Britain was not just short on binoculars but also camera lenses for aerial photography cameras, telescopes, rangefinders and naval periscopes. The British optical industry was simply incapable of meeting demand. 

British Army Binoculars c.1917 (source)

In contrast to this Germany, the world’s leading manufacturer of precision optics, was able to produce the vast quantities of military binoculars its army and its allies needed. By 1915 Britain’s need for optics had reached crisis point and a strange plan was decided upon. In what now seems like a highly unorthodox move the newly founded Ministry of Munitions sent a secret delegation to meet German representatives in neutral Switzerland. 

The German War Office allowed the optic company Zeiss to manufacture and sell precision optics to the British. An initial order for 8,000-10,000 pairs of binoculars for infantry officers and artillery observers was made. In return the German government asked for supplies of rubber. With German ports blockaded by the Royal Navy and no indigenous source German industry was in desperate need of rubber - something which the British Empire had vast stocks of.

Two British Officers inspect a German bicycle with spring tyres c.1918 (source)

The exchanges took place through Neutral Switzerland however, how long this clandestine arrangement lasted is unclear. While there are fragments of agreements and records which give us an indication of the scale of the Anglo-German deal the practicalities are not so clear. The exact amount of optics and rubber exchanged remains unknown. It seems that deal ended 1916, and may have even been a single transaction.

By 1916-1917 the German army was becoming desperate for tyres, increasingly trucks were fitted with steel rimmed wheels rather than tyres which churned up roads. Similarly German bicycles increasingly had their pneumatic tyres replaced by ‘spring typres/wheels’. These were made up of a large number of coil springs sandwiched between two metal bands to offer some comfort to the rider. 

While the clandestine rubber for optics deal was not strictly illegal it could have been seen as treacherous by the people of both countries. The Trading With the Enemy Act of November 1914 had ruled that German commercial assets in Britain were to be put in the Public Trust. However, trade through neutral intermediaries was not banned for instance a number of other goods such as German aeroplane magnetos were purchased through Swiss stockists up until 1916. The deal is one of the many lesser known quirks of the First World War. 


Image One Source

Image Two Source

To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, A. Hochschild (2011)

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By request and due to Taylor’s general inactivity while she’s having some well-deserved rest, I’m introducing an entire month of flashbacks. I’ve been stockpiling IDs over the years and now is the time to post them.

 Some are performance IDs of Taylor in her early formative years, others are more recent (think some lusted-after items from the 1989 photoshoot). I can’t wait to share all of these posts with you over the next month and enjoy looking back on how Taylor’s fashion has evolved over the years!

Hope you guys enjoy the month long feature, and let me know at @taylorswiftstylequestions if there is anything specific you’d like to see or how you feel about TSS Flashback February.

Team Fortress 2 Update Released

February 2, 2016 - TF2 Team

An update to Team Fortress 2 has been released. The update will be applied automatically when you restart Team Fortress 2. The major changes include:

  • Fixed a security issue related to the file system (thanks to Simon Pinfold for this report)
  • Fixed a client crash related to the material system
  • Fixed a crash when using medium or low texture quality on maps with static prop lighting
  • Fixed not seeing team names when using custom scoreboards
  • Fixed leaderboards occasionally not displaying when changing map
  • Improved bspzip tool stability when packing maps with large amounts of custom assets
  • Updated the contents of the Gargoyle Case, the Fall 2013 Acorns Crate, the Love And War Cosmetics Bundle, the Mann Co. Strongbox, and the Mann Co. Stockpile Crate
  • Updated the model/materials for the Crusader’s Getup and Arthropod’s Aspect
  • Updated The HazMat Headcase so it can be equipped by the Sniper
  • Updated The Mustachioed Mann so it can be equipped by all classes and added a second style
  • Updated The Special Eyes so it can be equipped by the Pyro and added a second style
  • Updated The Frenchman’s Formals to hide the Scout’s dog-tags
  • Updated the equip_region for the Cheater’s Lament and added a new style
  • Updated the Backburner to add the pilot light
  • Updated the Rainblower to remove the pilot light
  • Updated several materials to fix issues caused by mat_picmip
  • Updated the localization files
  • Updated pl_borneo
    • Fixed an exploit where players could get outside the map
  • Updated ctf_landfall
    • Fixed some material issues
  • Updated cp_vanguard
    • Added new path to the last point
    • New geometry to reduce sightlines on the middle point
    • Reorganized spawn points to better exit final spawns
    • Fixed Red forward spawn door blocking when held open
    • Fixed some material issues