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Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday links

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One of the Biggest Meteor Showers of the Year Returns This Week — Here’s How to See It.


The real history of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ - it all started with a Montgomery Ward marketing campaign in 1939.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include lots of ugly Christmas sweaters (plus instructions for making your own), how McDonald's got started, why woodpeckers don't get concussions, how your apps are tracking you (and who they're sharing the info with), and advice from c. 1200: on how to survive the winter (don't forget to lay off the purging and blood-letting, and keep your hands and feet covered in wolf grease).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wednesday links

Lots of ugly Christmas sweaters, instructions for making your own, plus ugly Christmas sweater suits. Related, here's how to make Ugly Sweater Ornaments.

Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, and They’re Not Keeping It Secret.


Advice from c. 1200: How to Survive the Winter. Don't forget to lay off the purging and blood-letting, and keep your hands and feet covered in wolf grease.

The lost art of flower-making.


ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include using fake "master" fingerprints to unlock smartphones,  the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, an interactive map shows all the ways medieval London could kill you, and T'was the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Lots of ugly Christmas sweaters, instructions for making your own, plus ugly Christmas sweater suits.

Ugly sweater for two available here.
In the phrase "ugly Christmas sweater," the word "ugly" is a term of art, a description rather than a put-down. One wears an ugly Christmas sweater precisely because it is so over the top, crammed with images of weighted-down Christmas trees, cartoony reindeer, red-cheeked Santas, and leering snowmen. Sequins are encouraged, as are lights. And if the sweater is three-dimensional, all the better.

There are currently 314,601 listings on eBay for "ugly Christmas sweater".

Want to tart up your own outfit? Try this light-up LED Christmas bulb necklace.

New and improved: Ugly Christmas Sweater suits:




A few favorites:





For Second Amendment types (Molon Labe ("Come and take them") was Leonidas' response to Xerxes when asked to surrender weapons at the battle of Thermopylae):








Wanna go the cheap route? The are lots of DIY kits, here's how to make your own - more ideas here and here. More photos here. And check out Collector's Weekly's All-Time Ugliest Christmas Sweaters.

And, of course, there are ugly Happy Chanukah sweaters:


Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday links

T'was the Overnight Before Christmas: The Merry Tale of How Air Cargo Deregulation Led To Amazon


How to Cook an Egg with Magnets.

A day that will live in infamy: It's the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor: some history, contemporaneous newsreels, and a Monty Python re-enactment.

The Glamorous, Sexist History of the Women’s Restroom Lounge

Interactive map shows all the ways medieval London could kill you.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include the anniversary of the end of prohibition, how wombats produce square poo, a selection of weird nativity sets, and the history of Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday links

The precursor to the war on drugs - Prohibition in the United States began on January 16, 1920 and ended on December 5, 1933. Related: here's Winston Churchill's doctor's note allowing him to drink "unlimited" alcohol in prohibition-era America.

Scientists Solve Mystery of How Wombats Produce Cubed Poo.


A selection of weird nativity sets.


Field of dreams: heartbreak and heroics at the World Plowing Championships.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

I was born on November 22, 1948; a few ruminations on growing old, plus the Thanksgiving birthday pattern

For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here's how it works: the Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

~ H. L. Mencken

I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming that comes when you finish the life of the emotions and of personal relations; and suddenly find - at the age of fifty, say - that a whole new life has opened before you, filled with things you can think about, study, or read about...It is as if a fresh sap of ideas and thoughts was rising in you.

~ Agatha Christie

All would live long, but none would be old.

~ Benjamin Franklin

The first half of our lives is ruined by our parents, and the second half by our children.

~ Clarence Darrow

Every old man complains of the growing depravity of the world, of the petulance and insolence of the rising generation.

~ Dr. Johnson

Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity.

~ Thomas Jefferson

How pleasant is the day when we give up striving to be young -- or slender.

~ William James

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Morituri Salutamus

It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded.

~ W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.

~ W. Somerset Maugham

Optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi prima fugit: subeunt morbi tristique senectus et labor, et durae rapit inclementia mortis.

~ Virgil
Of the measure of days allowed to piteous mortals, the best days are first to leave: illness and sorry old age loom up, suffering and death's untender mercies take all away.
Experience is a revelation in the light of which we renounce our errors of youth for those of age. 

~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

When the loud day for men who sow and reap
Grows still and on the silence of the town
The unsubstantial veils of night and sleep,
The meed of day's labour, settle down,
Then for me in the stillness of the night
The wasting, watchful hours drag on their course,
And in the idle darkness comes the bite
Of all the burning serpents of remorse;
Dreams seethe; and fretful infelicities
Are swarming in my over-burdened soul,
And Memory before my wakeful eyes
With noiseless hand unwinds her lengthy scroll.
Then, as with loathing I peruse the years,
I tremble, and I curse my natal day,
Wail bitterly, and bitterly shed tears,
But cannot wash the woeful script away.

~ Alexander Pushkin, Remembrance

The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines.

~ Plato

So Life's year begins and closes;
Days, though short'ning, still can shine;
What though youth gave love and roses,
Age still leaves us friends and wine.

~ Thomas Moore, Spring and Autumn

Though now this grained face of mine be hid
In sap-consuming winter's drizzled snow,
And all the conduits of my blood froze up,
Yet hath my night of life some memory,
My wasting lamps some fading glimmer left,
My dull deaf ears a little use to hear.

~ William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero, the best turkey fryer PSA ever, more

I've accumulated a LOT of Thanksgiving-related links over the years, so I've divided them up - here's the first set.

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.


Cartoon (The Oatmeal): Thanksgiving as a kid VS Thanksgiving as an adult.

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months, instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and to extend the usual annual compliments.

~ Mark Twain Autobiography

WKRP Turkey Drop episode: "As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly"



Gratius animus est una virtus non solum maxima, sed etiam mater virtutum omnium reliquaram.

~ Marcus Tullius CiceroOratio pro Cnaeo Plancio, 23
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the mother of all other virtues.
The excellent William Shatner fried turkey PSA:


Turkey fryer alert: 86 year old man deep fries own leg. Or as he calls it, his drumstick.

If you're actually going to fry a turkey, you might consider Alton Brown's advice on how to construct a derrick over your turkey fryer.





Pi vs Pie.

The voices of Christopher Walken and John Madden: The First Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Round-up of Thanksgiving links

A Thanksgiving miscellany: Mark Twain, science, WKRP, Cicero and the best turkey fryer PSA ever.

10 Thanksgiving Words With Bizarre Origins.


A bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a bird in a pig: the TurBacon Epic.


This Man Made the First Canned Cranberry Sauce.




For those of us born between the 22nd and 28th and have always wondered, here's how it works: the Thanksgiving Birthday Pattern.



Dave Barry Thanksgiving columns from 199619982004... feel free to add more in the comments.

Buffy Thanksgiving episode: "Ritual sacrifice, with pie."

Monday links

The Gettysburg Address was seven score and fifteen years ago: here's some history and a brief video with contemporaneous photos and illustrations. Related: Pennsylvania newspaper prints retraction (written in the style of the Gettysburg Address) for 1863 article calling Gettysburg address "silly remarks".

Napoleonic refugees in America.

I'd forgotten all about the USFL: Donald Trump’s Misadventures in Professional Football.

President James Garfield's birthday - when he was shot, Alexander Graham Bell showed up with a metal detector to try to locate the bullet. 

Three Centuries After His Beheading, a Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard Emerges.

There's still time to gather all of the ingredients: The traditional drunken turkey recipe.

ICYMI, most recent links are here, and include Veterans Day links, why pencils are yellow, hair washing advice from the 12th and 17th centuries, and football physics.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

November 19 is President James Garfield's birthday

For mere vengeance I would do nothing. This nation is too great to look for more revenge. But for security of the future, I would do everything. 

~ James A. Garfield (wiki) (speech, 15 April 1865, on the occasion of President Lincoln's assassination) 

Nobody but radicals have ever accomplished anything in a great crisis. Conservatives have their place in the piping times of peace, but in emergencies, only rugged issue men amount to much. 

~  Garfield (statement in his diary for 1876) 

I am trying to do two things: dare to be a radical and not be a fool, which, if I may judge by the exhibitions around me, is a matter of no small difficulty. 

~ Garfield (letter to Burke A. Hinsdale, 11 January 1867) 

The divorce between the church and the state ought to be absolute; It ought to be so absolute that no church anywhere in any State or in the nation should be exempt from equal taxation; for if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a church tax on the whole community.

~ Garfield (in the House of Representatives, 22 June 1874) 

Garfield died of a gunshot wound, from a disgruntled office-seeker, that today would probably not be life threatening. They just couldn't find the bullet and get it out. Alexander Graham Bell's attempt to locate it electronically, with the first metal-detector, failed, confused by the metal bed springs. Sadly, within ten years, the discovery of X-rays would provide a technology that could have made finding the bullet easy, even routine. With no antibiotics to control the infection, Garfield lingered painfully for more than two months.

~ Kelley L. Ross (b. 1949) (The Great Republic: Presidents and States of the United States) 

He did not flash forth as a meteor; he rose with measured and stately step over rough paths and through years of rugged work. He earned his passage to every preferment. He was tried and tested at every step in his pathway of progress. He produced his passport at every gateway to opportunity and glory. His broad and benevolent nature made him the friend of all mankind.

~ William McKinley (1843-1901)* (eulogy on the unveiling of a statue of President Garfield, 19 January 1896) 

November 19 is the anniversary of the birth of James A(bram) Garfield (1831-1881), 20th President of these United States, in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Born to a widowed farm wife, Garfield worked at a series of menial jobs but eventually attended Williams College, graduating in 1856. 

He entered politics as a Republican and served in the Ohio State Senate until the outbreak of the Civil War, in which he saw combat as a Union major general. In 1862 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served in that body until 1880, after 1876 as Republican Leader of the House. 

Noted as a skilled orator, Garfield supported the more radical aspects of Reconstruction, but later moderated his views and became known for his strong support in Congress for the gold standard and free trade. He narrowly escaped involvement in the Crédit Mobilier scandal of 1872, but his stature was such that the Republican party nominated him in 1880 as a compromise candidate for the Presidency, which he won handily. His four-month administration, characterized by party squabbles over federal jobs and political patronage, was cut short by his fatal wounding by a disappointed office-seeker in Washington in July 1881:

On July 2, 1881, at 9:20 a.m., James A. Garfield was shot in the back as he walked with Secretary of State Blaine in Washington's Baltimore and Potomac train station. The proud President was preparing to leave for Williams College—he planned to introduce his two sons to his alma mater. The shots came from a .44 British Bulldog, which the assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, had purchased specifically because he thought it would look impressive in a museum. Garfield's doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which was lodged in the President's pancreas. On September 19, 1881, the President died of blood poisoning and complications from the shooting in his hospital rooms at Elberon, a village on the New Jersey shore, where his wife lay ill with malaria.
The shot in the back was not fatal, not hitting any vital organs. The bullet lodged behind the pancreas.
"If they had just left him alone he almost certainly would have survived," Millard said. Within minutes, doctors converged on the fallen president, using their fingers to poke and prod his open wounds. "Twelve different doctors inserted unsterilized fingers and instruments in Garfield's back probing for this bullet," Millard recounted, "and the first examination took place on the train station floor. I mean, you can't imagine a more germ-infested environment." 
He died two and a half months later and was succeeded in office by Vice-President Chester A. Arthur. 

* N.B. Ironically, President McKinley was the next president to be assassinated - in September 1901. 

A brief documentary: