Joy to the World (of Warcraft) 5

Alunaria, over at Alunaria’s Avenue, has proposed a holiday challenge: stay away from the griping, grousing, and general grinchiness about World of Warcraft that’s all to easy to find these days and post something positive instead.

One of my absolute favorite world quests is the Slippery Slopes near Kennings Lodge in Tiragarde Sound. You get to race down an icy course on a penguin pretending to be your sled.

WoW BfA Tiragarde Sound Slippery Slopes World Quest1

WoW BfA Tiragarde Sound Slippery Slopes World Quest2

WoW BfA Tiragarde Sound Slippery Slopes World Quest3

WoW BfA Tiragarde Sound Slippery Slopes World Quest4

It’s such great fun! 😀

Also, Erik just told me that the quest can pop up in three locations altogether, and you get an achievement for doing all three. I’ve only seen it near Kennings Lodge—bad luck there—but now at least I can keep an eye out!

Images: World of Warcraft screencaps

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

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Joy to the World (of Warcraft) 3

Alunaria, over at Alunaria’s Avenue, has proposed a holiday challenge: stay away from the griping, grousing, and general grinchiness about World of Warcraft that’s all to easy to find these days and post something positive instead.

Today I’ve mostly leveled my Dark Iron Dwarf paladin. I got to level 60, which means FLYING, yay! I also added my very first Mole Machine locations beyond the ones that come by default.

WoW BfA Dark Iron Dwarf 1st Kalimdor Mole Machine Found Dec 2018

This Machine is next to Honor’s Stand in Southern Barrens. Now that I can fly, I can go round and add the other level-appropriate ones so much more easily. 😀

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Happy Holiday Wishes with Northern Lights Seen from the ISS

I grew up seeing Northern Lights every winter, so for me they’re not a novelty—except when seen from space.

NASA Instagram ESA Alexander Gerst Northern Lights from Space

This amazing photo was taken by the European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst at the International Space Station.

I think it’s fair to say we’re living in an age quite unlike any previous one from a scientific and research perspective. It’s amazing and incredible.

We’re vacationing for a week or so. Until then, Happy Merry!

Image: Northern Lights from space ESA/NASA-A.Gerst via NASA at Instagram.

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Large LED-Lit DIY Death Star Wall Art

This Star Wars wall art project is older, but a stunner nevertheless: Melissa DIYed an LED-illuminated Death Star for under $16.

320 Sycamore Melissa DIY Death Star w LED Lights

Wow; nicely done. Apparently Pottery Barn Kids used to list still sells a similar art piece for $299, except that one is stretched canvas while Melissa used particle board and an inexpensive engineer print.

Impressive; most impressive (done in my best Darth Vader imitation). Head to her site for the tutorial. Thanks for sharing, Melissa!

Found via Knock Off Decor.

Image by Melissa at 320 Sycamore.

In Making Stuff occasional feature, we share fun arts and crafts done by us and our fellow geeks and nerds

Avengers: Endgame Trailer

Whoa – Marvel Studios released the second Captain Marvel trailer and the first Avengers: Endgame trailer only four days apart.

Marvel Studios’ Avengers – Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

It does make sense—Avengers: Infinity War was implying heavily that Captain Marvel will be there for the sequel—but I can’t remember a big studio doing anything similar before. It’s a good time to be a geek. 🙂

As for the trailer: I didn’t much care for AIW, and it came across particularly wooden after the glory of Black Panther. Also, we all know a lot of the events of AIW will have to be undone in Endgame. We’ve now seen a teeny glimpse.

I’m wondering whether the fact that Doctor Strange wasn’t in the trailer at all means the postproduction team is still furiously working on the scenes. More likely is that they’ll want to safeguard any hints of his involvement in the final reveal from leaking prematurely. Also, I have to admit that I was surprised to see Hawkeye return; looks like he might have been written an interesting story twist.

If there’s a major complaint I have, it’s Tony frigging Stark being plastered front and center. In a trailer that runs 2:25, he monologues / occupies the scene for almost a minute (0:55). That’s way too much; weren’t the Avengers supposed to be ensemble movies, after all?

In addition, I have some fleeting thoughts that don’t really go anywhere. (When did Cap shave? Why is Cap crying? And that’s so great—in my world, a man is nothing if they don’t allow themselves to cry. Huh—Scott Lang embiggened and out of the subatomic realm? Ok, there’s Black Widow and Nebula, but where are the rest of the women?)

Mostly, though, the trailer managed to re-ignite my interest in the sequel after the decidedly lackluster first part.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

New Find: Most Uralic Speakers Share Siberian Ancestry

(This post is mostly a Note to Self—I don’t want to forget about the study below—but if other people are interested, that’s great.)

The majority of languages spoken in North Eurasia belong to three language families—Turkic, Indo-European, and Uralic. My native language Finnish is a part of the Uralic languages; the main branches of the family are the Finno-Ugric and the Samoyed.

While there’s rough agreement over where and how Uralic languages developed and spread, and over what types of material cultures were found in the corresponding areas, no-one’s done comprehensive studies on the genetic history of Uralic-speaking peoples before.

This interdisciplinary study, lead by Kristiina Tambets from the University of Tartu, Estonia, compared genome-wide genetic variation of nearly all extant Uralic-speaking populations from Europe and Siberia.

From the abstract:

“The genetic origins of Uralic speakers from across a vast territory in the temperate zone of North Eurasia have remained elusive. Previous studies have shown contrasting proportions of Eastern and Western Eurasian ancestry in their mitochondrial and Y chromosomal gene pools. While the maternal lineages reflect by and large the geographic background of a given Uralic- speaking population, the frequency of Y chromosomes of Eastern Eurasian origin is distinctively high among European Uralic speakers. The autosomal variation of Uralic speakers, however, has not yet been studied comprehensively. […]

“Here, we present a genome-wide analysis of 15 Uralic-speaking populations which cover all main groups of the linguistic family. We show that contemporary Uralic speakers are genetically very similar to their local geographical neighbours. However, when studying relationships among geographically distant populations, we find that most of the Uralic speakers and some of their neighbours share a genetic component of possibly Siberian origin. Additionally, we show that most Uralic speakers share significantly more genomic segments identity-by-descent with each other than with geographically equidistant speakers of other languages. We find that correlated genome-wide genetic and lexical distances among Uralic speakers suggest co- dispersion of genes and languages. Yet, we do not find long-range genetic ties between Estonians and Hungarians with their linguistic sisters that would distinguish them from their non-Uralic-speaking neighbours.”

And the conclusion:

“Here, we present for the first time the comparison of genome-wide genetic variation of nearly all extant Uralic-speaking populations from Europe and Siberia. We show that (1) the Uralic speakers are genetically most similar to their geographical neighbours; (2) nevertheless, most Uralic speakers along with some of their geographic neighbours share a distinct ancestry component of likely Siberian origin. Furthermore, (3) most geographically distant Uralic speaking populations share more genomic IBD segments with each other than with equidistant populations speaking other languages and (4) there is a positive correlation between linguistic and genetic data of the Uralic speakers. This suggests that the spread of the Uralic languages was at least to some degree associated with movement of people. Moreover, the discovery of the Siberian component shows that the three known major components of genetic diversity in Europe (European hunter-gatherers, early Neolithic farmers and the Early Bronze Age steppe people) are not enough to explain the extant genetic diversity in (northeast) Europe.”

I find the question of which material cultures may have spread together with which languages absolutely fascinating. Having my own small language / culture be a part of a larger study like this makes it even more special.

I was also surprised to learn that only three Uralic languages—Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian—are not listed as endangered in the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. (I did know that several of the tiniest ones like Mari or the Permic languages have been endangered for decades, but I had thought that some of the Samoyed or Ugric languages had more speakers than that.)

While I doubt these three will go extinct very soon, there’s pressure at least in Finland to adopt more and more loanwords from English. Then again, we three may end up being rather rare, all in all, and I’m not quite sure whether to be alarmed over our potential disappearance or proud of our preciousness—or both.

Found via Helsingin Sanomat (NB. Finnish only). (Related article on the Siberian genes of Finns and the Sami in English via University of Helsinki.)

Tambets, Kristiina et al. 2018. “Genes reveal traces of common recent demographic history for most of the Uralic-speaking populations”. Genome Biology 19:139. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13059-018-1522-1. The article is openly accessible (CC BY 4.0).

Image screencapped from Kristiina Tambets et al.

On, of, and about languages.

Quotes: [It’s] the Small Things … That Become Precious

“It’s the large things in life that drive us, that we measure ourselves by; but it’s the small things, the daily things that–that become precious to us.”

– Rowan in Rosemary Kirstein’s The Outskirter’s Secret

As I get older, I see more and more truth in this trite-sounding idea. Or you could say that it’s yet another way of putting the concept that life happens in the cracks of bigger things or while waiting for something grand to happen.

Kirstein, Rosemary. The Outskirter’s Secret. New York: Del Ray, 1992, p. 132.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.

Second Captain Marvel Trailer

Yesterday’s release of the second official Captain Marvel trailer caught me off guard. (It seems to happen to me a lot this fall.) No matter—it’s as AWESOME as the first.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Trailer 2 by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

My thoughts of the first trailer pretty much stand for this one, too—more of Nick Fury is great, and especially when he get gets cute with a cat! 😀 Also, again, it’s seriously sooo wonderful that Carol Danvers is shown as a soldier instead of sexy-woman-soldier (think of those silly Halloween costumes). I’m not at all interested in the Skrull and the Kree plot yet, but we’ll see.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Medieval Realism: Holding a Distaff Under One Arm While Feeding Chickens

As usual, some days ago while doing something quite different I found an intriguing detail I wanted to look into. Finally I had the time to chase it down.

So: I was struck by this scene from an English illuminated manuscript.

British Library Add MS 42130 f166v Feeding Chickens
Add MS 42130, f.166v via British Library (England; 1325-1340; illuminated manuscript)

The way the woman in the image is holding a distaff under one arm while she feeds chickens from a bowl feels incredibly authentic. I may not have to spin my own yarn nor feed chickens in 2018, but I have often held a thing under my arm momentarily while taking care of a small, short task. Such a lovely, realistic detail.

I do have one question for the artist, though: what on earth is that chick doing, standing on top of the hen and pecking her? (“Mom, look, I’m up here! Mom? Mom? Mooom!”) LOL!

The manuscript is from England and known as The Luttrell Psalter. Fortunately for us, British Library has digitized the whole manuscript. In addition to the chicken-feeding one above, the illuminations include a slew of other everyday scenes, like a miller in his windmill, bear-baiting(!), a wattle pen full of sheep, and various stages of tending fields and preparing food.

Being a textile nerd, I enjoyed the image of two women preparing fibers into yarn: one is using a spinning wheel, the other is carding.

British Library Add MS 42130 f193r Spinning Carding
Add MS 42130, f.193r via British Library (England; 1325-1340; illuminated manuscript)

The coloring is quite lovely. I do wonder, however, what’s with the awkward poses. The chicken-feeding image felt much more natural in that respect, too.

Images via British Library

Out There is an occasional feature highlighting intriguing art, spaces, places, phenomena, flora, and fauna.

Chance to Watch Coverage of InSight’s Mars Landing

On Monday, November 26, 2018, NASA Television is bringing coverage of InSight’s Mars landing to a website or social media near you!

NASA JPL-Caltech Simulated InSight Landing on Mars

From NASA’s press release:

“NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red Planet at approximately 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, and viewers everywhere can watch coverage of the event live on NASA Television, the agency’s website and social media platforms.”

There are a few pre-landing broadcasts, and on the landing day, coverage will start early in the morning. The landing itself is expected to take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. EST, with post-landing news conference to wrap up the event.

Wow, sounds incredible. Even though the cameras are “only” inside JPL Mission Control and the mission itself will be covered by audio “only”, it’s the closest I can get to experiencing touching down on another celestial object. I will have to make time for this!

Found via File 770.

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech.